Gordon Campbell on the hurdles to any extradition treaty with China

So China’s President Xi wants New Zealand to help them to extradite ‘corrupt’ Chinese officials who have fled here with their ill-gotten gains. Hey, who isn’t against corruption? Prejudge the question in that fashion and you automatically end up with the Winston Peters response – sure, let’s do it. Send ’em packing.

Reframe the question though. Should we be helping China to get its hands on people to whom we have granted the rights and protections of New Zealand residency – and thereby making us a party to them being hauled in front of kangaroo courts in China that have an abysmal track record when it comes to the rules of evidence and the due process of law? “Corrupt” officials being those defined as such by the Chinese government, which has also never been shy about defining its political dissidents as “criminals” and “hooligans.” On top of all this, we would be supposed to take at face value a written promise from China that it would respect the human rights of the accused. Once those alleged big-time corrupt officials were back on Chinese soil, they would only be imprisoned and given a lot of dirty looks but – promise, pretty promise – would not be subjected to torture or the death penalty. Yeah, right.

Oh, and any extradition treaty with China would be strictly a one-way street. That’s because China does not extradite its own citizens. Article 8 (1) of the Chinese extradition code says:

Article 8. The request for extradition made by a foreign state to the People’s Republic of China shall be rejected if:
(1) the person sought is a national of the People’s Republic of China under the laws of the People’s Republic of China.

There are a few precedents for this stance. Brazil doesn’t extradite its own citizens either, which is why the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs and (more recently) Phillip Smith/Traynor headed for there. The one-way street thing just doesn’t seem to bother some countries. Britain for instance, is more than willing to extradite its citizens to the United States – even to Texas – provided it is given a written assurance that the death penalty will be waived. Canada also seems happy to extradite its own citizens to France, even though France won’t extradite its own citizens back to Canada, or to anywhere else.

With China though, you’d have to ask what New Zealand could possibly get in return. Should we be willing to (a) trade away the human rights associated with residency and (b) become a willing accomplice in what will almost certainly be a travesty of justice? All in the hope of winning some ill-defined goodwill from President Xi? While the Chinese might smile at any readiness from us to comply, it would be a smile of contempt. If there is a genuine problem to do with allegedly corrupt officials fleeing here with their ill-gotten gains, surely the place to intercept them is before the decision to grant them residency has been made. Once they’re here, they deserve our protection, in all but exceptional circumstances. To do otherwise would be to devalue the worth of being a New Zealand resident. Moreover, no Chinese business migrant would want to come here in future, knowing that the very act of doing so could expose them to a claim for extradition.

So, rather than being dazzled by the prospect of the riches such applicants bring, maybe our immigration officials need to look more closely at (a) the sources of that wealth and (b) whether the reasons for coming here are economic, or political. As things stand, the “problem” here doesn’t look like corruption, per se. It looks more like China re-defining capital flight as “corruption” and seeking vengeance. New Zealand should resist the temptation to turn itself into a de facto policing arm of the Chinese government.

Venture capital immigration
As the arguments continue over whether or not wealthy Chinese migrants are pushing up house prices in Auckland, it could be worth revisiting an issue more pressing than any claims of ‘corruption.’ Do sufficient checks and guarantees exist on whether the investments promised in exchange for residency ever do finally materialize here? In some notorious cases, they plainly don’t.

Canada has had a problem with this aspect of investor-driven immigration for years, and has finally done something about it. In February this year, it scrapped its investment-for–residency scheme meant to entice wealthy Chinese to Canada, and has set up a pilot scheme that will require the investor to offer venture capital, to get fledgling Canadian businesses off the ground.

Ottawa announced in February it would end the decades-old Immigrant Investor Program, saying the $800,000 investment required of newcomers, as well as other conditions, “significantly undervalued Canadian permanent residence.” In the 2014 budget, the federal government said it would replace the program with one that would require foreign applicants to make a venture capital investment in early-stage startup companies. This is an effort to ensure the money applicants invest in Canada has greater economic impact than the old program…

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, immigration experts are recommending that Canada use its bargaining power and demand big bucks upfront – the possible estimates range from $1.5 million to $3 million – for the privilege of gaining citizenship. (Reportedly, wealthy Chinese comprised 80% of the applicants for the old scheme.) If applicants do not contribute venture capital, an alternative also being mooted would be to ask wealthy would-be immigrants to help pay the cost of Canada’s infrastructural projects. So, rather than just pushing up house prices, wealthy Chinese migrants could help to pay for Auckland’s city rail link, and its next harbour bridge.

Angel Olsen Rules
For my five cents, Angel Olsen has been 2014’s artist of the year. She’ll be at Laneways next month, but may struggle to overcome the deadening nature of Silo Park. (Asphalt in blazing sunlight is not an ideal setting for what she does.) This year’s Burn The Fire For No Witness album was great, but 2012’s Half Way Home is what really sealed the deal on Olsen’s idiosyncratic singing and uncompromising writing.

For starters, here’s a live version from August 2013 of an old song from her first tape Strange Cacti and – from the very same gig – a great live rendition of ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ from Burn The Fire. Plus, a live version of one of that album’s less immediately compelling tracks (“Lights Out”) …and finally “Tiniest Seed” from Half Way Home. Also strongly recommended: “Miranda” “Acrobat” “Safe In The Womb” “High and Wild” “Hi Five” “Windows” “Drunk And With Dreams” etc etc. She’ll probably kill at Laneway, despite everything…

Angel Olsen – Tiniest Seed (Official Video) from Randy Sterling Hunter on Vimeo.