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Whether Lai Changxing, dubbed the most wanted man for his involvement in China's most notorious smuggling case in the 1990s, would be successfully extradited from Canada and brought to justice is, in many ways, of particular significance to the campaign against corruption.

The willingness Lai expressed early this week in an interview to be repatriated is the light at the end of the tunnel for the 10-year-long effort to get him back for trial since he fled in 1999. He admitted, during the interview, to the crime of evading a large sum of taxes and stated that he wanted very much to return to his motherland. He said that he had been facing a lot of pressure both economically and psychologically in the past decade.

That his ex-wife, who divorced him four years ago, has already returned, has added to the possibility of Lai's successful extradition. His youngest daughter came back with his ex-wife.

The lack of an extradition agreement with Canada has made the process very complicated for China to bring back economic criminals, who are taking shelter there. A similar situation exists with other Western countries, with which China is yet to sign such treaties.

Whatever lies behind Lai's change of mind to accept being extradited for trial, it is an encouragement to China's unremitting fight against corruption, especially the effort to bring to justice those corrupt elements who fled the country.

This indicates that the attempts of the public security department, for the last 10 years, to have Lai repatriated will finally pay off. If Lai can be successfully repatriated for trial, it would certainly send a message to the hundreds of other corrupt elements still at large that justice is only a matter of time. So it is better for them to realize that they cannot remain in hiding for the rest of lives, but give themselves in and confess their crimes in order to get lenient punishment.

On the other hand, the hard situation Lai has been facing in Canada should serve as a warning to those corrupt officials who are planning to flee abroad that it will be not easy to be on the run in a foreign land.

Lai said that his two brothers and two sisters passed away during the last 10 years and he had missed them as he could not meet them when alive. He said that he used to invite his hometown fellows to dinner on festivals but now he can hardly meet any of them, even when they visit Canada. Anyone in his shoes would undoubtedly feel bad at not being able to return home simply because of the booty illegally obtained.

Traditionally, we Chinese believe in justice. Most of the corrupt elements who have fled abroad will sooner or later be brought to justice. Even though Lai is welcome to return to the motherland, he still has to face smuggling, tax evasion and other charges against him.

(China Daily August 7, 2009)

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