Businessman sought in China graft probe seeks Canada refugee status

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 23, 2015 12:33 PM

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A businessman who is on China's 100 most wanted list of people accused of corruption argued in a Canadian court on Tuesday that he deserves refugee protection while he fights Beijing's efforts to find expatriates it accuses of graft.

Cheng Muyang, known in Vancouver as developer Michael Ching, asked a Canadian refugee court to review a November ruling by the Canadian refugee board denying him refugee protection.

In April, China's Interpol office released the names and pictures of people wanted in its latest anti-graft campaign, "Sky Net," which deepens the government's pursuit of suspected corrupt officials who had fled overseas.

The list included Cheng Muyang, the son of a once high-ranking Chinese official removed from office for graft in 2003.

Ching's lawyer David Matas contested the board's position that there was evidence Ching committed a crime.

Matas said the allegations centered around a 10 million yuan ($1.61 million) sale of Beijing property to the province of Hebei, where Ching's father was a senior official.

Matas said there was no evidence other than testimony obtained by torture, and that China's Communist party was trying to get at Ching's father.

"There is no crime. It's just a property matter," Matas said. "If we can conclude this is all politically motivated the evidence disintegrates."

Justice Yvan Roy said the motivation for the charges against Ching was not clear.

Matas has argued that "Sky Net" was aimed at rooting out allies of former president Jiang Zemin.

Ching sued the Canadian government for blocking his efforts to gain citizenship, but the case has not yet been resolved.

Anyone fighting deportation from Canada must prove he or she would face persecution or cruel and unusual treatment.

The list published by China's Interpol office showed that Canada is home to about a quarter of the expatriates sought by China.

Matas, who represents three Chinese expatriates facing corruption charges and possible deportation, has said Canada is naive in its response to Beijing. Matas said economic ties may be discouraging Ottawa from questioning Beijing's motives.

"The people at the top (in China) are hard to get to. They're too powerful. So the way the party gets at people is to get at their surroundings. You kill the fish by draining the pool," Matas told the court on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by Andrea Hopkins and Grant McCool)