China arrests its top fugitive, Lai Changxing, after Canada deports him


This TV grab taken on July 23, 2011 from China's Central Television shows fugitive Chinese businessman Lai Changxing escorted by Chinese authorities after he landed in the Chinese capital aboard a civilian flight in the custody of Canadian police, in Beijing. Lai Changxing arrived in Beijing on July 23, 2011 after being deported from Canada, ending a 12-year legal and diplomatic tug-of-war that tested the countries' relations.



China's most-wanted fugitive was arrested as he arrived in Beijing on Saturday after being deported by Canada.

The deportation and arrest of Lai Changxing ends his 12-year legal battle to stay in Canada. Lai, who is accused of heading a multi-billion dollar smuggling ring, had argued that he would be executed if returned to China, and his case sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Lai, 53, was escorted by Canadian police officers on an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Beijing, where he was handed over to Chinese police.

Chinese state television showed Lai being read his rights by a police officer before being taken into custody, the Toronto Star reports.

Canada does not have capital punishment, and the country will not deport people to countries where they may be executed. China, which reportedly carries out more executions every year than any other country, has promised Canada that Lai will receive a fair trial and will not face the death penalty.

On Friday a Canadian court upheld a deportation order, paving the way for his extradition.

"The life of the applicant is in the Chinese government's hands," the court ruling said.

(More from GlobalPost: China's most-wanted fugitive loses fight to stay in Canada)

China has accused Lai of masterminding a smuggling network based in Xiamen, a coastal city in southern Fujian province, in the 1990s.

Lai, an illiterate laborer who became a tycoon, fled to with his family to Canada in 1999, but was denied refugee status and has been fighting to stay ever since.

Lai’s lawyers argued that he would face torture and execution in China if he was returned home.

State media in China called his arrest “a triumph for justice.”

China Daily, a state-run English-language newspaper, reported Saturday that Lai could face life in prison.