One of my favorite adages is one that defense attorneys use in closing arguments when the government’s case contains some evidence of guilt, and some evidence of illegal police conduct:
If a waiter in a restaurant brings you soup with a cockroach in it, you don’t eat around the cockroach- you send the whole bowl back to the kitchen because all of the soup is tainted.
I am reminded of this story when I think about China’s Skynet investigation, the subject of a report here.
China has escalated extradition efforts in furtherance of its anti-corruption endeavor, named Skynet, and is seeking the assistance of other countries and INTERPOL, through the use of Red Notices, to find and bring home government officials who left the country and allegedly committed financial crimes.
Of course, often times when we see a massive anti-corruption drive, we also see an accompanying slew of human rights violations. It appears from the article cited above that China’s Skynet is no exception. From the article, some detail is provided about the tactics China uses to encourage people to return to China to face their charges:
Over 40 percent of the 738 fugitives who returned to China in 2015 were “persuaded” to come back rather than forcibly repatriated, according to the CCDI. Fugitives’ family members sometimes played a role in these “persuasion efforts”, Li Gongjing, a Shanghai police officer, said in an interview with Xinmin Weekly magazine.
“It’s very effective. A suspect is like a kite. Although he is in a foreign country, his line is in China and we can find him through his relatives,” Li said.
“Finding” a suspect is different from “persuading” her to return. In almost every case I have seen where an improperly Red Notice is requested against a subject who has family members in the requesting country, government officials’ “persuasion” efforts have not included polite letters or requests. Rather, they have included the use of physical force and intimidation, seizure of legally owned assets, threats to have family members fired from their jobs, revocation of professional licenses and permits, and the like. And this is all before the subject is returned to the requesting country- it’s not a stretch to imagine that such a country will commit further human rights and legal violations if she did return.
China has a long-standing history of violating human rights in the name of maintaining law and order. For this reason, some countries, including the United States, have not agreed to an extradition treaty with China. Recent evidence illustrates that China continues its pattern of human rights violations: it has ignored the international amnesty status of individuals in order to re-patriate them, and has also engaged in disappearing individuals who have spoken against the government.
So, back to the soup. Before INTERPOL can legitimately become involved with China’s anti-corruption prosecutions, China should be required to show substantive and documented reform in the area of human rights and due process rights. Until then, the whole bowl of Skynet soup is tainted and should be returned to the kitchen.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.