9 December 2014

The Chinese apparently don’t appreciate that there are no foxes in New Zealand.

Canada has red foxes and arctic foxes.  The United States has red and grey foxes. Japan has red foxes. In Western Europe red foxes have been urbanised. And in Australia the prolific red fox population poses serious environmental and ecological problems.  However there are no foxes in New Zealand. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act classes them as a “prohibited new organism”.

But the Chinese Government is keen that New Zealand joins the hue and cry as part of “Fox Hunt 2014”. The offer is of an extradition treaty but New Zealand seems less certain than other countries approached to locate and repatriate former Chinese officials who have emigrated with ill gotten gains. A share of those ill gotten gains may make us more amendable.

This year China surprised the international community with the way it embraced obligations of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. UNCAC has explicit provisions about the hunting of fugitive corrupt officials and the recovery of money. China concluded an extradition treaty with Australia and a number of other countries, and finalised cooperation agreements with the United States and Canada. The United States has for years campaigned for States Parties to step up their anticorruption endeavours – and then in November on the margins of the APEC Summit, China led the way with the Anti Corruption Network – the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption.

The immediate call by China was for international cooperation to locate and return corrupt officials. Many are known to have gone with their assets to developed countries. The ultimatum to former officials hiding abroad with corruptly acquired property is to give up by the year’s end if they wish lenient sentences..

“Fox Hunt 2014” gathered momentum. First the United States and Canada were given details and asked to detain and return fugitives and their assets. Then a direct approach was made to Australia. The New Zealand Prime Minister has now disclosed that in November the Chinese President sought similar cooperation here. Sensitivity about capital punishment may impact the likelihood of widespread extradition, but some very rich migrants to New Zealand were previously senior officials in China. Apparently the Government is being offered a share of any repatriated assets. .