China said Friday that the US had repatriated an “economic fugitive”, days ahead of a trip by its President to Washington, despite the two countries lacking an extradition treaty.
Former official Yang Jinjun, resident in the US for 14 years and suspected of “corruption and bribery”, returned to China in handcuffs, the ruling Communist Party said.
The party’s internal disciplinary body said on its website the the “forced repatriation” showed “important progress in China-US anti-corruption law enforcement cooperation”.
Pictures showed him on the tarmac at a unidentified Chinese airport, flanked by uniformed Chinese police officers.
But the legal basis for the repatriation was unclear. Most Western countries including the US do not have extradition agreements with China, where courts are overseen by the ruling party and the use of force by law enforcers to extract confessions is believed to be common.
China’s President Xi Jinping has said that that corruption threatens the party’s grip on power, and has launched a high-profile anti-graft campaign.
Part of the effort is a campaign known as “Sky Net,” aimed at repatriating alleged corrupt officials who have fled abroad.
The effort has raised concerns in Australia, where China reportedly dispatched law enforcers to pressure suspects without notifying Canberra.
Yang was named as one of China’s 100 “most wanted” economic fugitives in a list released in April. Analysts said the list consisted mostly of low-level officials.
The details of the allegations against Yang were unclear. State media said he was an official from the Chinese city of Wenzhou accused of embezzlement.
Reports linked him to Yang Xiuzhu, a former Wenzhou mayor accused of embezzling more than $40 million.
There is no independent legal oversight of the Communist party’s internal disciplinary investigations, which deny corruption suspects access to lawyers.
China’s state-run media said last year that use of force to extract confessions by police in the country was “not rare”.
The death penalty is available for some corruption cases in China, which overseas rights groups say is the world’s biggest executioner.
The repatriation comes days before Xi pays his first state visit to the US. China this week released two dissident intellectuals detained for nearly a year.