China hails first fugitive extradition from U.S. under Trump

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday hailed the first extradition of a fugitive suspect from the United States under the Trump administration as a “major achievement” resulting from talks between the two countries’ leaders in April.

The suspect, only identified by his surname Zhu, was shown on live national television stepping off a United Airlines flight at Beijing airport flanked by two Chinese police officers, his head covered with a black hood.

The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement Zhu was suspected of crimes involving the “violation of personal rights”.

A key plank of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign has been the drive to repatriate overseas fugitives suspected of corruption and economic crimes through widely publicised operations dubbed “Fox Hunt” and “Sky Net”.

But China has had limited success in securing cooperation from western countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, where many of its most-wanted reside, largely because of what those governments see as a lack of transparency and due process in China’s judicial system.

The ministry said Zhu fled to the United States in April last year, prompting Chinese police to request an Interpol “red notice” for his arrest.

Zhu was detained in January by U.S. immigration authorities after overstaying his visa, paving the way for his repatriation.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it had no information about the case and the U.S. embassy in Beijing declined to comment.

Zhu’s case was a “major achievement” and “model example” of the greater cross-border law enforcement cooperation agreed upon during April’s summit at Mar-a-Lago between U.S President Donald Trump and Xi, the Ministry of Public Security said.

That meeting of minds, it said, would enable “next steps” to be taken to strengthen cooperation in areas including cyber security and cross-border law enforcement.

The United States extradited businessman Yang Jinjun in September 2015 to face bribery and graft charges, while China’s most-wanted corruption suspect, Yang Xiuzhu, voluntarily returned from the United States in November last year.

In April, China asked Interpol issue a “red notice” for Guo Wengui, a billionaire businessman who lives in New York who has made corruption allegations against senior Communist Party leaders and their families.

Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Robert Birsel