CANADA. PRIME MINISTER 'INSISTS' CHINESE FUGITIVE SHOULD NOT FACE DEATH PENALTY
May 25, 2006: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he will "insist" that fugitive Lai Changxing should not face the death penalty if returned to China, a sanction Beijing had declined to rule out.
"We have insisted, as you know, in discussions with the Chinese government on no death penalty and will continue to insist on that," Harper told reporters in Vancouver where Lai awaited a final court decision on extradition.
"(Otherwise) the government will not get involved politically in this case," Harper added. Lai had been fighting to stay in Canada since fleeing there in 1999 and claiming refugee status in 2000. His lawyers told AFP he feared certain death if sent home.
Chinese authorities, who alleged that the former laborer was the mastermind behind a multi-billion dollar smuggling ring, declined to rule out the death penalty if convicted of these crimes.
"If he is repatriated back to China, he will receive a fair trial in accordance with the law," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular briefing.
He made the comment directly in response to a question on whether China could guarantee that Lai would not be executed if he was sent home. But, Canadian officials said former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien extracted an assurance from former Chinese president Jiang Zemin that Lai would not be executed if he was returned. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 25/05/2006)