Lai Changxing

Lai Changxing

Lai Changxing ( _zh. 赖昌星) (born 1958) is a Chinese businessman and entrepreneur from Jinjiang, Fujian in the People's Republic of China. Lai was the head of the lucrative Yuanhua Group in the Special Economic Zone of Xiamen, which became implicated in a large smuggling and corruption scandal in the late 1990s. He has been described by several media organizations as "China's most wanted fugitive", while others maintain that he is the victim of a government witch hunt and that he is a "defender of the free market". He currently resides in Canada.

Yuanhua Group

Lai resided in Fujian province before he moved to Hong Kong in 1991. In 1994 Lai founded Yuanhua Group, a prominent group of upstart companies that took advantage of the economic boom of Xiamen's status as a Special Economic Zone. The group was heavily involved in the city's real estate, clubs, and owned the 88-story Yuanhua Tower and the Yuanhua International Centre. Lai had prominent connections with the Zhejiang power elite; he was also a member of the Provincial Consultative Conference.

Lai was believed to be the mastermind of a US$10 billion scheme, during which he allegedly bribed high level officials in the administration of the Xiamen Special Economic Zone in order to smuggle luxury cars and entire tanker-loads of oil into the country. Chinese authorities do not comment on allegations that Lai's Yuanhua group was also a conduit for clandestine military shipments, such as Silkworm missiles.


He fled to Canada in 1999 with his wife Zeng Mingna (曾明娜) and their children, using a HKSAR passport [] [] , [] , [] Following heavy pressure from Beijing, Lai's Hong Kong permanent residency and HKSAR passport were revoked in 2002 by the Hong Kong Government, saying that he obtained the status dishonestly. []

The Chinese government has refused to drop the charges laid on him, and seeks his extradition. In the same corruption case, one of the largest in modern Chinese history, many high-level municipal and provincial officials were sacked and a few were sentenced to life in prison or death. The complex smuggling case has shifted the entire political scene in Fujian in the late 1990s. Others like Pierre Lemieux defended Lai, saying he is only a criminal because of the communist economic system in China. They say with a free market, there would be no need for smugglers like Lai.

Lai's attorney Winnipeg lawyer David Matas says it is doubtful Lai could ever get a fair trial in China, given the extent of communist party influence in the opaque judicial system. Former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, architect of the crackdown on Xiamen-centred smuggling and having a very tough stance on corruption, has publicly stated that Lai deserves not just one but several deaths. Matas has now filed for an assessment of whether Lai's family is at risk if they are return to China. As long as immigration officials are considering this request, he says, they may not be removed from Canada.

Nonetheless Lai has repeatedly been denied political refugee status in Canada, most recently in 2005 September by the Supreme Court in Ottawa. This seconded the Federal court of Appeal, which in April had refused to hear Lai's appeal of the 2002 June Refugee Board decision, i.e. that Lai and Zeng didn't meet the standards to be designated as refugees.

While 14 others involved in the complex racket in China have been executed, China promised Canada, which has no capital punishment, that he would not be executed if extradited from Canada. The promise is suspect, given that Lai's brother died in a Fujian labour-camp after receiving a lesser sentence, a passing noted by Svend Robinson, then New Democratic Party member of parliament for Burnaby-Douglas.

Further reading

The only book published on the Lai Changxing affair is by the former Beijing bureau chief of "The Times" newspaper, Oliver August.
*cite book |title=Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man |last=August |first=Oliver |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2007 |publisher=John Murray |location= |isbn=0618714987
*A [ short film] about the making of the book "Inside the Red Mansion" by Oliver August.

External links

* [ The most corrupt man in China] , Oliver August, "The Sunday Times", July 1, 2007
* [ Smuggler's Blues] Hannah Beech, "Time Asia"
* [ Canada again rejects refugee status for Lai] "Xinhua", April 15, 2005.
* [ In Defence of Lai Changxing] Pierre Lemieux, November 29, 2000.
* [ Chinese in Vancouver - Updated blog coverage]

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