The Law and Policy Context of Extradition from Australia to the People’s Republic of China
One cost of China’s remarkable economic growth since 1978 has been levels of corruption among some public officials, significant enough to seriously erode public confidence in government and the Communist Party of China, and even threaten certain areas of domestic economic growth. Anti-corruption strategies seek to locate and repatriate corrupt officials, who have fled overseas as ‘economic fugitives’. In furtherance of these strategies, China has sought to ratify a number of bilateral extradition treaties, including the Treaty on Extradition between Australia and the People’s Republic of China, which Australia signed in 2007, but abandoned its only attempt to ratify in March 2017, due to domestic political pressure and strident criticism of its terms. Ratification is important to China, not only to supplement its pursuit of economic fugitives, but also to help enhance its soft power and diplomatic prestige internationally, and the political legitimacy of the Communist Party domestically. It is important to Australia as a means of demonstrating goodwill, to preserve crucial law enforcement collaboration, and to protect its markets with its largest trading partner. This paper argues that the current treaty impasse cannot be appropriately resolved either by ratifying the treaty in its current form or by requesting amendments that are unlikely to be acceptable to China. It considers several other interim alternatives and assesses their potential to reconcile China’s need to save face and Australia’s need to honour its commitment to the Rule of Law and preserve its international human rights reputation.
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