September 10, 2015 / 3:47 AM / 4 years ago

China says senior official visited Interpol to push graft fight

A paramilitary police officer stands guard in front of a giant portrait of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong during the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - A deputy head of the Chinese Communist Party’s graft watchdog visited Interpol as part of a trip to France to push for greater international cooperation in China’s fight against corruption, state media said on Thursday.

The government earlier this year unveiled an initiative called “Sky Net” to better coordinate its fight to return corrupt officials and published a list of 100 suspected corrupt people believed to be abroad and subject to an Interpol “red notice”.

Officials say only about 10 people on that list have been returned to China so far, from countries with close ties to Beijing.

Xinhua news agency said that Zhao Hongzhu, a deputy head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, met French government officials, including the justice minister, and then went to Interpol headquarters in Lyon on a trip that ended this week.

“The main point (of the Interpol visit) was to increase international cooperation in fighting corruption and exchange views on recovering dirty assets and corruption suspects (from overseas),” Xinhua said, without elaborating.

Interpol, in a statement on its website, said that Secretary General Jürgen Stock told Zhao he valued its cooperation with China.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping campaign against graft since assuming power in late 2012, but has been hampered to an extent by difficulty in getting corrupt officials and assets back from overseas.

China does not have extradition treaties with the United States or Canada - the two most popular destinations for suspected economic criminals.

Western countries have baulked at signing extradition deals with China, partly out of concern about the integrity of its judicial system and treatment of prisoners. Rights groups say Chinese authorities use torture and that the death penalty is common in corruption cases.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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