Canada and China have agreed to hold negotiations on a possible mutual extradition treaty, according to statements posted to the websites of both governments.
Such an agreement would be the first between China and Canada. The U.S., Britain and Australia have all resisted China's efforts to establish similar legal agreements, citing judicial corruption and torture of prisoners.
Australia has cited China's use of the death penalty as one reason for not ratifying an extradition treaty that was signed in 2007 but has never gone into effect.
In 2006, Spain became the first European country to ratify an extradition agreement with China, according to Library of Congress Global Legal Monitor. Just today, France announced it is carrying out its first deportation to China under that country's extradition agreement.
According to the joint communique posted online by the office of Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, leaders of both countries met to discuss such an agreement when the prime minister visited China a few weeks ago. After Trudeau returned to Canada, one of his national security advisers met in Beijing with China's leader of Central Political and Legal Affairs in what the statement called the "inaugural meeting" of a group meant to discuss a range of national security issues.
Among the short-term objectives of that group is a potential extradition treaty between the two countries. Canada and China are also negotiating a one-year plan in which Chinese officials would be invited to help Canada identify people for deportation.
Although the U.S. has not agreed to consider a broad extradition treaty with China, last April the Obama administration did agree to a similar cooperation plan to identify Chinese fugitives living in the U.S. who might be breaking American laws. That plan also paved the way for the U.S. to repatriate some of the tens of thousands of Chinese citizens held in deportation facilities.
A 2015 Reuters investigation found that China was chronically failing to provide the necessary deportation paperwork to U.S. officials attempting to repatriate Chinese immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally, but were not high-profile fugitives.
China's president, Xi Jinping, has been particularly keen on bringing home people his government says are corrupt officials who fled the country, often with significant amounts of money.
In 2015, China issued 100 global arrest warrants for people it says are corrupt officials, most of whom live in the U.S. or Canada. The warrants are part of a Chinese law enforcement program named Skynet, and which is unrelated to the artificial intelligence program made famous by the Terminator movies, as we have reported.
Last September, the U.S. agreed to return one of the people listed by the Skynet program. Yang Jinjun, a Chinese businessman accused of bribery, was sent back to China to face charges.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn reported on the U.S. handling of another Chinese fugitive case last year:
"[The list of Chinese people wanted abroad also includes] Zhao Shilan and her ex-husband Qiao Jianjun, a former manager at a government grain warehouse in central Henan province. He is accused of embezzling $112 million, some of which the pair used to apply for investor immigrant visas to the U.S. in 2008.
"They reportedly also used some of the money to purchase a four-bedroom, gray clapboard house with a two-car garage in Newcastle, a suburb of Seattle, which neighbors say sold for more than a half-million dollars.
"In March , a U.S. federal grand jury indicted Zhao and Qiao on charges of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, money laundering and international transport of stolen funds. The pair could serve time in a U.S. prison, or be sent back to China."
Zhao was released on bail in the U.S. and is awaiting trial next year, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Qiao's whereabouts are unknown, and he is wanted by Interpol for allegedly misappropriating public funds.
Earlier this month, a Canadian missionary named Kevin Garratt, who had been imprisoned in China on espionage charges, returned home after two years. In a statement after Garratt's release, Prime Minister Trudeau did not mention impending extradition treaty talks, although the imprisonment did come up during Trudeau's recent visit to China.