The RCMP is more than willing to turn over its evidence in the troubling Amanda Zhao murder case to Chinese authorities so that the only suspect in her death can be tried in China, chief B.C. Superintendent Dick Bent said yesterday.
"Under the right circumstances, absolutely," Supt. Bent told reporters, after an emotional meeting with Ms. Zhao's parents who have come to Canada searching for answers in their daughter's killing six years ago today in a Burnaby basement apartment shared with her boyfriend.
In a highly unusual development, RCMP investigators will travel to China later this month to provide a summary briefing of the evidence in the case to members of China's Ministry of Public Security.
Ms. Zhao's boyfriend, Li Ang, also a Chinese national, fled to China a few days after her body was found near a Fraser Valley lake, stuffed in a duffel bag.
Months later, he was charged in B.C. with second-degree murder. However, he has remained free in China, while Canadian and Chinese justice officials continue to grapple over jurisdictional matters, a process that has dragged on now for more than five years.
Supt. Bent said police have abandoned any hope that Mr. Li will ever be returned to stand trial here "unless he comes back voluntarily…. But China has said they are prepared to prosecute Li Ang for the murder of Amanda Zhao. If the proper processes are followed with the [federal]Department of Justice, I have no problem with that."
One of the issues in dispute, he said, is the existence of capital punishment in China, with Canada bound by law not to co-operate with the prosecution of anyone in a foreign country who could be executed.
"That's why the Department of Justice is involved," Supt. Bent said. "The issue here is how to facilitate evidence-sharing with China. That's been the delay."
At a press conference after the afternoon meeting with the RCMP, held in the cramped quarters of MLA Jenny Kwan's constituency office, Ms. Zhao's mother expressed bitterness over the fact that the Justice Department has been unable to move the case forward in over five years.
"We have learned that is why it has procrastinated for so long, because of the Department of Justice in Canada," Yang Baoying said.
A frail figure, wearing a white cap and dark glasses, Ms. Yang began to weep as reporters asked her whether she would like to see Mr. Li executed, if he is convicted of Ms. Zhao's murder.
"It's really not something I care about, since death for everyone is just a matter of time. What I really want is to see my daughter again," she said, burying her face in a large cloth.
She shed further tears when asked about the acquittal of Han Zhang, Mr. Li's cousin who was charged with helping him dispose of Ms. Zhao's body. Mr. Han's confession was tossed out by the presiding judge over the RCMP's handling of it.
"The RCMP did say they were sorry over their mistake," Ms. Yang recounted. "But saying sorry does not bring my daughter back. I'm very sad and very disappointed to see that person who should be punished [Mr. Han]is free."
Nothing has gone right for Ms. Zhao's parents since their daughter killing. Six years have gone by and no one has been brought to justice for the crime, with both the person accused of murder and the individual charged with being an accessory to the crime remaining free.
In addition to losing much of the life savings and loans they amassed to finance Ms. Zhao's studies in Canada, they have been evicted from their home in Beijing, and forced into a run-down apartment in the far outskirts of the city, without access to a phone. They have little money remaining.
At the same time, they have been told almost nothing by Canadian officials about what is happening in the case since 2003, according to Ms. Kwan, the MLA.
"That is not acceptable," said Ms. Kwan, adding that the RCMP have now promised to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the family.
The parents will meet tomorrow with Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, hoping for more answers and an explanation why the Department of Justice has taken so long to resolve the matter.
A memorial service will be held today at 10 a.m. at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver's Chinatown.