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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK
China fugitive denied Canada asylum
Vancouver
Lai arrived in Vancouver in 1999
A Canadian tribunal has denied a request for political asylum by one of China's most wanted men, Lai Changxing, accused of being at the centre of a contraband ring back home.


Having lost of course I don't feel that good - however, regardless of everything, I am confident that I will win

Lai Changxing
The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board says Mr Lai does not have a legitimate fear of political persecution in China and that there is strong evidence that he is guilty of non-political crimes.

Mr Lai was arrested in Canada in 2000 for immigration offences and has been vigorously fighting efforts to send him back to China where he fears he could face the death penalty.

He was detained by Canada at China's request and had been living under house arrest in a Vancouver suburb with his wife and three children, after entering the country in August 1999.

Lai Changxing
Lai has been dubbed China's most wanted man

"[The panel] found that on the balance of probabilities, Mr Lai and Ms Tsang Mingna will not face the death penalty because China will honour its diplomatic note not to execute them," it said in summary of the nearly 300-page decision.

During lengthy testimony before the Canadian tribunal, Mr Lai denied the charges and claimed he was the victim of a power struggle inside the Chinese Government.

China's promise

Canada's Supreme Court has ruled people cannot be extradited to countries where they may be executed.

The Chinese Government has promised that it will spare Mr Lai from the death penalty if Canada returns him.

Mr Lai told reporters he still did not believe China's assurances, and that eight people convicted in connection with the case have already been executed.

"You won't even hear my voice," he said.

Mr Lai's lawyer has said he will appeal this ruling to Canada's federal court in a process that could keep Mr Lai and his family in Canada for at least another year.

The case stunned China with its scale and the apparent ease with which Mr Lai bought off government officials.

China says Mr Lai was the key figure in a vast smuggling racket which evaded import duties on more than $6bn worth of goods.

See also:

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13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
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