Editorial: How should an international crime be understood?


With recent developments surrounding the ISU Chinese student Tong Shao homicide case leading to in a formal statement from the Chinese government about the arrest of alleged killer Xiangnan Li, a former University of Iowa student, the next step toward justice has arrived. However, it appears the process of court law will take place across the Pacific Ocean.

Because the United States and China do not have an extradition treaty, China is not obligated to send Li to stand trial on the soil his alleged crime took place, despite requests from the U.S. Department of Justice. International law enforcement is a gray abyss of politics and colliding ideologies in regards to the practice of justice. Alongside a tumultuous history between the U.S. and China in regards to extradition, all reported facts lead to Li remaining in his home country for trial.

In theory, China could release the alleged killer to U.S. officials for prosecution, but there is a microscopic chance of that narrative.

According to Reuters, Western governments have been reluctant to engage in extradition treaties with global superpower China because of its murky process of law as well as international human-rights advocacy organizations claiming foul play in Chinese interrogations. 

Chinese officials reported to Reuters that more than 150 “economic fugitives” have fled overseas to countries such as the U.S. in order to avoid government corruption charges. Global Financial Integrity, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, estimated that between 2003 and 2012, $1.25 trillion was smuggled out of China to foreign shores through veiled bank accounts, such as LLCs — which often was ultimately invested in U.S. real estate.

For politically fueled reasons, China often does not budge on extraditions to the U.S., and it has the economic and global influence to back that up. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that it will not budge on the Li case.

It is surprising, however, that the U.S. Justice Department, alongside local authorities, complied with Chinese investigators on the case by providing all evidence of the case in Iowa. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that because the homicide occurred on U.S. soil, it should result in a U.S. trial. However, an important distinction must be made in order to address the key components involved with the suspect and victim: location and identity.

Location may, at first, appear to be the most justified grounds for where an international criminal case should be heard; it should be heard where it took place. Because of political tensions alongside national identity, though, it is actually a bit more arbitrary, particularly considering Li surrendered himself to authorities in Southeastern China.

Citizenship plays the more integral role in the Shao homicide case because both parties involved hail from the China. In regards to personal and subject matter within jurisdiction, for the case to be heard on Chinese soil is more logically sound. Decades of extradition standoffs between the U.S. and China have resulted in national identity bearing more weight in the politics of such cases.

Arguments for, or against, refuge for individuals such as the Chinese “economic fugitives” are dependent on their country of origin. The citizenship of a suspect substantiates the grounds for which court of the law they should stand trial, as they should also be held to the standards of their society.

The Shao homicide case could hold considerable weight in the discussions of a possible quasi-extradition treaty draft between the U.S. and China in the future. Next month, as officials will discuss the repatriation of aforementioned “economic fugitives,” a new form of international law correspondence may be forged, belonging to the two largest economies in the world.

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