China says most wanted corruption suspect returned of own accord from Canada

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A man on China's list of 100 most wanted corruption suspects abroad has voluntarily returned to China from Canada where he fled in 2011, the government said on Wednesday (June 8), as Beijing keeps up the pressure to return such people to the country.

China has been trying to get increased international cooperation to hunt down suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas since President Xi Jinping began a war against deeply rooted graft more than three years ago.

But Western countries have been reluctant to help, or sign extradition treaties, not wanting to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem, and also complaining China is unwilling to provide proof of their crimes.

China has instead turned to persuasion to get people back from countries like Canada and the United States, where many of these suspects have gone.

In a brief statement, China's graft-fighting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Zeng Ziheng had come back to the country of his own accord after "successful admonishment".

It gave no details of how that was achieved, but said China's justice and foreign ministries assisted.

Zeng, 44, had been an engineer in the northern province of Henan. The statement provided no details of the exact crimes he is wanted for.

It was not possible to reach him for comment and unclear if he has been allowed to retain a lawyer in China.

The statement added that 28 people on the list of its 100 most wanted had returned to China.

The government last year unveiled an initiative called "Sky Net" to coordinate its fight to return corrupt officials, and published the list of suspects subject to an Interpol "red notice" - the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant.

China aims to speed up the signing of extradition treaties with countries to where corruption suspects have fled, a senior official wrote in state media this month.