China’s Operation Fox Hunt against graft suspects hiding abroad: Will Canadian authorities cooperate?

renminbiThis article, which appeared last weekend in a Hong Kong newspaper, reveals details about “Operation Fox Hunt” — a campaign by the government of China “to pursue corrupt officials and economic criminals hiding overseas.” Some of them could be in Vancouver.

One wonders …. if the municipal, federal and provincial governments were to announce clearly that they were cooperating with Chinese authorities like these, could we see a reduction in land assembly, speculation, empty homes, and skyrocketing real estate prices in Vancouver? Could we see a return to healthier housing prices and a better balance between local incomes and local housing costs? Could the #donthave1million Twitter campaign see some positive results?

Revealed: The team behind China’s Operation Fox Hunt against graft suspects hiding abroad (South China Morning Post, 18-April-2015)
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1768993/team-behind-chinas-operation-fox-hunt-revealed

Excerpts:

  • Man leading hunt for corrupt officials overseas reveals the qualities that make his team tick
  • The leader of Operation Fox Hunt, the mainland’s campaign to pursue corrupt officials and economic criminals hiding overseas, has revealed his team consists of 20 “hunters” with an average age of 30 – and includes some who are in their early 20s.
  • Liu Dong, deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security’s economic crimes division who heads the operation, has used recent interviews with mainland media to give the public a rare glimpse into the Fox Hunt team, which brought 680 fugitives back to China in the course of six months last year.
  • He told Xinhua the work required a young team because members needed the strength to withstand long hours and frequent long-distance travel.
  • … “Up to now, most team members have had master’s degrees, and the majority have studied economy, law and investigation. Several others majored in foreign languages and enterprise management,” he said.

****

CityHallWatch additional comments:

  • News reports are suggesting that billions of dollars of “hot” money are ending up in Canadian real estate — much of it in Vancouver. What is the magnitude of the impacts of this money in Vancouver?
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Vancouver’s homes are owned by foreign buyers. AM730 reported this yesterday: “Last year, Macdonald Realty opened a Shanghai office after finding that more than 30% of the single-family homes it sold in 2013 went to buyers with “mainland Chinese names.” Ian Young, a reporter for South China Morning Post, estimates that, in terms of dollars spent, nearly half of detached homes sold in Vancouver in 2014 “probably” went to Mainland Chinese buyers.”

  • An internal memo to City Council by Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency CEO Mukhtar Latif describes possible causes of vacant homes. (Apparently it was leaked by someone at City Hall to editor Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight and later posted online by City Councillor Geoff Meggs.) But the memo misses mentioning international money laundering, speculation, and “hot” money — which could account for a large proportion of the escalation in Metro Vancouver land values in recent years.
  • On April 24, 2015, an article by Ian Young in the South China Morning Post revealed that “the mother of Wanting Qu, the pop star girlfriend of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, has been arrested for corruption in China.” “China Daily cited an ‘insider’ source as saying that Qu Zhang Mingjie’s arrest was related to the sale of state assets at fire-sale prices.”
  • Vancouver media only touched the surface and failed to ask deeper questions. For example, does Qu Zhang Mingjie’s arrest have implications for Vancouver? Does she own property in here? Through her daughter’s connection with the Mayor of Vancouver, did she benefit from privileged information? Qu Zhang Mingjie was already in trouble in September 2014 — when she was dismissed as deputy director of the Harbin’s development and reform commission — but it was only on January 6, 2015, that Globe and Mail reporter Frances Bula revealed the relationship between the Mayor and Ms. Qu via a blog post. (She had obtained the information “from a very reliable source.”) Was Ms. Bula a pawn in the Robertson’s communication strategy? Did the Mayor know about the possible corruption charges even before the November 15 election in 2014? Did he and his handlers control the information in order to avoid losing votes? (Vision maintained its majority on City Council by a very slim margin.) Could this information have potentially been devastating for Vision Vancouver, especially among more conservative Chinese voters who may have taken a dim view of the connections.
  • Back to our original questions — If the municipal, federal and provincial governments were to announce clearly that they were cooperating with Chinese authorities like these, could we see a reduction in land assembly, speculation, empty homes, and skyrocketing real estate prices in Vancouver? Could we see a return to healthier housing prices and a better balance between local incomes and local housing costs? Could the #donthave1million Twitter campaign see some positive results?

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