Businessman sought in China graft probe seeks Canada refugee status

Businessman sought in China graft probe seeks Canada refugee status

WINNIPEG, Manitoba - A businessman on China's most-wanted list of people accused of corruption argued in a Canadian court on Tuesday that he deserves refugee protection.

Cheng Muyang, known in Vancouver as developer Michael Ching, asked a judge to review a November ruling by the Canadian refugee board that denied him protection.

In April, China's Interpol office released the names of 100 people wanted in its "Sky Net" anti-graft campaign.

The list included Ching, son of a once high-ranking Chinese official removed from office for graft in 2003.

Ching's lawyer, David Matas, contested the board's position that there was reason to consider that he committed a crime.

Matas said the allegations centred on a 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) sale of a Beijing property to the province of Hebei, where Ching's father was a top official.

Matas said there was no evidence other than testimony obtained by torture, and that China's Communist party was trying to get to Ching's father.

"There is no crime. It's just a property matter," Matas said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was not aware of reports mentioning torture.

"The Chinese government's determination to bring to justice people suspected of corruption who have fled abroad has not changed," Lu said at a regular news briefing.

Nalini Reddy, a lawyer representing the Canadian government, said the refugee board only needed to find that there were "serious reasons for considering" charges against Ching for it to deny him protection.

Part of the evidence Chinese courts heard earlier was of a 2.8 million yuan payment to Ching from the property sale's broker. The refugee board did not see the evidence, and relied on a description from the Chinese court.

Ching told the board last year that the payment related to other transactions.

The refugee board's immigration division found in 2009 that torture was involved in testimony of some witnesses who implicated Ching in China, although Ottawa is appealing that finding. The refugee board was not required to find whether or not there was torture involved, Reddy said.

Justice Yvan Roy said he would issue his judgment later.

Matas, who represents three Chinese expatriates facing corruption charges and possible deportation, has said Canada is naive in its response to Beijing.

"The way the party gets at people is to get at their surroundings. You kill the fish by draining the pool," Matas told the court on Tuesday.

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