|Lai to go back home any day now|
It's been a very long tug-of-war of diplomacy between the two countries, and the 52-year-old Lai trying every legal avenue to stay in Canada to claim refugee status.
He's been accused of bribery and masterminding a multibillion-dollar smuggling ring that imported goods to Xiamen, including cigarettes and the Chinese government wants him back to be prosecuted on these charges.
But for the longest time Canada would not hand Lai back because the two countries did not have an extradition agreement, but also Canada is not supposed to send people back if they know they will be either tortured or killed when they are returned.
However on Thursday Justice Michel Shore said there were enough promises from the Chinese government that it would not torture or execute him.
"It is assumed that the assurances of the Chinese government, as per its written promises, will be kept, as the Chinese government's honour and face is, and will be, bound and kept respectively, by the monitoring for the lifetime of the applicant..." Judge Shore wrote in his ruling.
He added according to the Chinese government's word, Canadian officials would be able to Lai periodically and sit in on his court hearings which "augur hope for a different way to be taken, in a newly unfolded path to which the Chinese government's signature has been officially affixed for the commitments undertaken. The future, yet to be seen by both countries and others, will stand as witness to the outcome."
While Lai's lawyer David Matas tried to argue that the Chinese government does not keep its promises and that his chances of being fairly represented in a Chinese court were very slim, Judge Shore said this was not convincing evidence to prove Lai shouldn't be sent back.
Also apparently Lai has been negotiating his return to China with Chinese authorities, which to Judge Shore, indicated no risk of going back.
This last detail I didn't know about and Lai was possibly trying to seek as much assurance as he could about his relative safety back home.
Apparently Lai will be returned any day now and it's a long time coming.
Both Canada and China wanted this issue resolved and with Lai having exhausted all his legal options, the wait is finally over. Former Premier Zhu Rongji must be especially pleased, as he initiated the crackdown on smuggling in Xiamen and publicly stated Lai deserves not only one death but many.
Nevertheless, it's interesting to note Lai's judgment coincides with Foreign Minister John Baird's trip to China that just ended and that Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to go to Beijing again -- and probably doesn't want another stern lecture from Premier Wen Jiabao.
It seems suspicious that all legal avenues were blocked for Lai so quickly and definitively when this debate had been going on for over a decade.
But perhaps more importantly, those who will miss him the most will be some of Vancouver's Chinese restaurants as Lai was one of their biggest customers....