BEIJING – A former senior Chinese official who went into hiding after being sought by anti-corruption investigators has applied for asylum in the United States after been detained there, state media said on Thursday.
Yang Xiuzhu, a former deputy mayor of Wenzhou in the booming eastern province of Zhejiang, was taken into custody in the United States last month pending her removal to China.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency said that Yang, at the top of a Chinese list of 100 suspected corrupt people believed to be abroad and subject to an Interpol “red notice,” made the asylum application in a New York court.
Xinhua said its reporter saw Yang dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, with her hair cut short and a “puffy” face.
The case comes as China pushes for talks with the United States on an extradition treaty, which would be a big boost for China’s anti-corruption campaign.
Yang first fled to Singapore in 2003 before changing her name and flying to New York.
She was eventually detained in Amsterdam in 2005, where China was not able to gain custody of her despite protracted negotiations with the Netherlands. In addition to the United States, China lacks an extradition treaty with the Netherlands.
It is not clear how Yang ended up in the United States.
President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping campaign against graft since assuming power in 2013 but has been hampered to an extent by difficulty in getting corrupt officials and assets back from overseas.
China does not have extradition treaties with the United States and Canada — the two most popular destinations for suspected economic criminals.
Western countries have balked at signing extradition deals with China, partly out of concern about the integrity of its judicial system and treatment of prisoners. Rights groups say Chinese authorities use torture and that the death penalty is common in corruption cases.