Government & Military

Yang Xiuzhu

One of China’s “most wanted” leaves Houston to face charges at home.

Former deputy mayor, Wenzhou City

In March 2015, Chinese authorities published a list of fugitives sought as part of “Sky Net,” a campaign that seeks to partner with overseas law enforcement to snare corrupt officials hiding abroad. Given that most of those named live in either Canada or the United States, the announcement instantly transformed Beijing’s expanding anti-corruption crackdown into a major foreign-policy issue. But like Canada, the United States has no extradition treaty with China and is understandably wary of repatriating an alleged fugitive who turns out to have been pursued for reasons more political than legal.

Curiously, those widely understood to be Beijing’s very most wanted — like Ling Wancheng, the brother of a fallen high official who resides stateside and is suspected of sharing state secrets with U.S. authorities — were not listed. But Yang Xiuzhu, a former construction official and big-city vice mayor who allegedly took about $40 million in bribes, then fled for the United States in 2003 by way of Singapore, was. After spending time in a Houston detention facility for visa violators, Yang reportedly returned to China and turned herself over to authorities in November 2016. China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was “anti-corruption cooperation between China and the United States” that led to Yang’s return. What happened to Yang may become a template for how the United States treats other Sky Net fugitives within its borders.

(Photo credit: Reuters)

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