The specter of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-graft campaign has in recent months ousted officials of all ranks and even banned authorities from purchasing ostensible symbols of corruption — such as moon cakes — with public funds.
Xi’s anti-corruption program may be headed a little farther afoot — to the United States.
Chinese diplomats in the U.S. suggested Wednesday that they may seek Washington’s help in extraditing what state media has reported is a list, compiled by Beijing, of more than 1,000 corrupt Chinese officials who have sought refuge in the U.S.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, did not specifically mention the list in an email sent to Al Jazeera. Geng did, however, indicate that Chinese officials may potentially push for the extradition of corrupt officials at an annual meeting between the two governments this fall.
There is currently no extradition treaty between China and the U.S. But the meeting that Geng referred to, the gathering of the China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG), started in 1998, is where Geng said issues such as the joint “pursuit and repatriation” of criminals are typically discussed.
Geng said that since its inception, the JLG has “played an important role in coordinating and promoting bilateral law enforcement, with both sides cooperating successfully.”
State-owned Chinese newspaper The Global Times originally reported this week what it called a dire need for better law enforcement cooperation between China and the U.S. The original Chinese-language text of the article was removed from the website at the time this article was published, but the original text can be found here.
A Chinese lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retribution, has previously described to Al Jazeera intimate knowledge of the dealings of Chinese officials who had sent family and assets abroad amid a crackdown on corruption that will likely unseat many.
“This is a huge issue right now in China,” said Arthur T. Dong, a Georgetown professor and expert in Chinese business. “We have a new sheriff in town — the new sheriff is Xi Jinping. He has an aggressive reform agenda he's trying to propagate. He's swept up some very senior people in the party and taken them down. He's made it clear and used them as examples. He's showed he is serious about instituting new business models.”
The campaign is driving Xi’s targets abroad, Dong said.
“There's tremendous interest in obtaining residency and finding a way to put their assets in safer havens,” Dong said.
“There are people petitioning the U.S. for various forms of visa applications. One of the most notable is the EB-5” or investor visa program, in which Chinese nationals who make an investment of $1 million in a job-creating U.S. enterprise have a shot at permanent residency.
U.S.-China commerce analysts have said that after the U.S. EB-5 program’s Canadian counterpart closed in February, more wealthy Chinese people looking to park their assets in stable climates may soon head south.