A Vancouver property developer wanted in China on corruption charges has secured a significant legal victory in his bid to stay in Canada, the latest twist in a protracted court battle that has dragged on for years.
Michael Ching Mo Yeung, who has developed several real estate projects in British Columbia and appeared on an Interpol "red notice" as a wanted fugitive under the name Cheng Muyang, has been a permanent resident of Canada since 1996. He has fought for more than a decade to gain Canadian citizenship in a process that eventually ground to a halt because of his alleged criminality in China, according to a previous affidavit submitted by one of his lawyers.
On Wednesday, Federal Court Justice Yvan Roy ruled that Mr. Ching's case should be sent back to a different panel of the Refugee Protection Division of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which had previously looked at his case. For Mr. Ching, whose lawyers have argued that he faces false charges in China and would risk imprisonment and torture, the ruling allows him to remain in Canada for the time being and continue arguing his case through Canada's legal process.
Mr. Ching's lawyers have argued that he is an innocent victim of politicized charges, that evidence against him was obtained through the torture of key witnesses, and that he would not get a fair trial in China.
The refugee panel, according to Mr. Roy, had previously concluded there were "serious reasons for considering" that Mr. Ching, a Chinese national, had committed a "serious non-political crime" in China, which would prevent him from gaining Canadian citizenship.
Mr. Ching's lawyer in this case is the well-known human rights lawyer David Matas. He also defended the Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing, who fought for years to avoid extradition to China from Vancouver – but was eventually deported after the Chinese government assured Canadian officials he wouldn't be tortured or executed.
China, under President Xi Jinping, is in the middle of a far-reaching crackdown on corruption, both of domestic officials and Chinese citizens who have fled overseas. China's law enforcement agencies have said there are 26 wanted fugitives currently in Canada.
In his ruling, Mr. Roy pointed out that Mr. Ching had never appeared before the Chinese court that found two of Mr. Ching's acquaintances guilty of embezzlement related to a real estate transaction in Beijing. Mr. Ching's father, a Chinese Communist Party Secretary in China's Hebei province, was expelled from the party in 2003 after a corruption investigation. Mr. Roy notes it "appears" Mr. Ching, through his father, met one of the men who would go on to be convicted, and that the Chinese court found the three men had skimmed roughly $2-million from the land deal.
But Mr. Roy also noted the refugee panel's "serious reasons" for suspecting Mr. Ching of partaking in the crimes of embezzlement and "harbouring and transporting illegally acquired goods" remained "unclear." He noted the panel made its decision by relying on the rulings of the Chinese tribunals, rather than on any actual evidence of Mr. Ching's complicity, and that although the panel "seems to accept" that Mr. Ching received illicit funds from the real estate transaction, there was again no evidence that the Canadian officials could see.
Noting that the "embezzlement scheme is itself quite difficult to follow," Mr. Roy wrote in his ruling that he was "hard-pressed to understand what is the evidence that was presented in support of the allegation that the applicant was a co-conspirator."
Mr. Ching's company, Mo Yeung International Enterprises Ltd., has been involved in several real estate projects in B.C., including a condo development – Collection 45 – in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.
Mr. Ching and his lawyer Mr. Matas did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson said the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada does not comment on Federal Court decisions.