Irwin Cotler: China’s Criminal Justice System Victimized Another Canadian

Canada must stand with James Xiao, the latest Canadian victim of Chinese persecution and unjust prosecution

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Canadian citizen James Xiao (Xiao Jianhua) was sentenced last Friday to 13 years in Chinese prison. However, the only criminals in the closed courtroom were the Communist Party officials involved in his unjust persecution and prosecution.

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Indeed, the only consistency of China’s arbitrary justice system is its longstanding 99% conviction rate. Thus, if the punishment was not unexpected, it was no less unjust. The defendants have no recourse but to plead guilty, in the hope of not incurring the wrath of capricious officials and facing an even harsher sentence. Most often, confessions are forced as a result of torture and ill-treatment.

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This is the context behind Xiao’s case, which has been described by Jerome Cohen, a New York University law professor and world expert on Chinese law, as a “brazen kidnapping” and a process characterized by extraordinary mistreatment, even by the standards of the Chinese Communist Party.

Defendants have no recourse but to plead guilty.

Kidnapped from his hotel room in Hong Kong, Xiao had been held incommunicado for nearly six years, until he reappeared in a Shanghai courtroom last month. The trial was held in secret, with Canadian officials barred from entering despite Xiao’s Canadian citizenship, and in violation of China’s international legal obligations and the Canada-China consular agreement in this regard.

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The abduction, arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of James Xiao – rooted in the denial of basic rights and violations of China’s own laws – parallels the treatment of other political prisoners in China. Although analogies have been drawn to the case of the “two Michaels”, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, his case is part of a longer line of unfair targeting of Canadians in China that I witnessed during my advocate for prisoners around the world for nearly half a century.

Indeed, 22 years ago, I represented Dr. Kunlun Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner, professor at McGill University and one of China’s leading artists, who was also held as a political prisoner by the authorities. of the Chinese Communist Party. His release from unjust detention only followed after intensified interventions by a cross-party group of parliamentarians and international civil society.

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Since then, I have taken up the cases and causes of many other Canadians wrongfully detained in China, exposing and unmasking the injustice of the country’s criminal justice system, quickly learning that the only criminal thing involved in the system is its lack of justice.

Dr. Wang Bingzhang, who earned his MD at McGill University and later founded China’s democracy movement overseas, still languishes in jail as his Canadian family fights for his freedom overseas. end of the world. He, too, was kidnapped and forcibly transferred to China to face a trial that violated fundamental legal principles and protections. His prosecution was riddled with all kinds of errors and falsifications, including numerous trumped up accusations and false testimonies that have since been clearly and irrefutably refuted, but without any remedy or redress by Communist Party authorities.

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Huseyin Celil, a Uighur-Canadian rights activist whose case I took on in 2006, was also abducted in Uzbekistan to face a secret and unfair trial in China. Held incommunicado, he was mistreated, deprived of his right to counsel and deprived of his rights as a Canadian citizen, with Canadian officials denied consular access. He has been unjustly detained in Xinjiang gulags for more than a decade, while his wife and young children in Canada plead for his release from arbitrary imprisonment.

The only criminal thing involved in the system is its lack of justice

In yet another case, Canadian businesswoman Sun Qian was abducted from Beijing and tortured in detention, sentenced to eight years in prison after being initially imprisoned for more than three years and stripped of her basic rights pending trial. . His billion-dollar company has been broken up and major assets seized by authorities, in what many see as an effort by the Chinese Communist Party to take control of his business holdings.

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These cases are all representative of the draconian measures employed by China against Canadians – and the criminalization of innocence in China more generally – where many more of our citizens still languish in detention.

These unfair prosecutions and horrible conditions are further reinforced by a system that prevents and punishes the use of independent counsel. China has long held the record for the number of lawyers imprisoned than any other country in the world – all the more shocking in light of China’s growing trend of imposing on defendants a Communist Party-approved lawyer, if they have the right to do so — and that further incentivizes compliance with state requirements among the few remaining lawyers willing and authorized to take on a case.

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While the victims of Chinese repression may differ in their religious views, ethnicity, and politicized motivations for their targeting, their cases share one overriding common characteristic: injustice. Kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, secret trials, denial of consular access, denial of independent counsel, torture, forced confessions, false accusations and unjust convictions are hallmarks of the Chinese (in)justice system.

Their cases share an overriding common feature – injustice

James Xiao suffers brutality from Beijing for his business acumen, unjustly sentenced to more than a decade in dungeons to a world away from his family in Canada. A child prodigy, he won a scholarship to one of China’s top law schools at age 15 and went on to build one of the country’s most successful business ventures. Like other leaders in their field, the totalitarian system could not allow his continued independent success, quickly dismantling his business following his kidnapping and enforced disappearance.

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The brazenness of his arbitrary arrest and sham trial – the impunity that underpins his mistreatment – ​​is meant to send a signal to all in China and beyond of the omnipotence of the Communist Party. However, China’s continued violation of fundamental domestic and international legal norms rather reflects the Communist Party’s lack of confidence in the cases it pursues and the lack of principles underlying them.

As a leader in promoting the Declaration against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, Canada should publicly and clearly condemn China’s treatment of Canadians. Together with our allies, we should put a concrete cost on this criminality, in the form of targeted Magnitsky sanctions for justice and accountability. The corrupt and rights-abusing officials of the Chinese Communist Party implicated in these cases should not be allowed to travel to our democratic states to enjoy the ill-gotten gains of their persecuted businessmen, or the freedoms for which their mistreated dissidents are so bravely beaten at home.

Indifference or leniency towards this persistent culture of impunity and criminality in China increases the risks for Canadians and all people of conscience. We must stand with James Xiao, the latest victim in a long line of Chinese persecution and unjust prosecution. The cause of justice demands no less.

Special at the National Post

Irwin Cotler is a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Canadian Co-Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, and longtime advocate for political prisoners in China and elsewhere.

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