British Columbia

Boyfriend, cousin charged in student's death

Two men have been arrested in China in connection with the strangulation death in Vancouver seven years ago of Chinese student Amanda Zhao.

Arrests made in China, 7 years after woman killed in B.C.

Amanda Zhao seen in a 2002 photo. ((CBC))

Two men have been arrested in China in connection with the strangulation death in Vancouver seven years ago of Chinese student Amanda Zhao.

It was revealed Tuesday that police in China arrested Ang Li and Zhang Han earlier this year, acting on evidence provided to them by the RCMP.

Zhao came to B.C. from China in 2001 to learn English and had studied in Vancouver for about 15 months when she went missing in October, 2002.

Li, her boyfriend and roommate, said Zhao, who was 21 when she died, went to the grocery store and never came back. At the time, Li blamed himself when talking to reporters about his missing girlfriend.

"It's my fault not to accompany with her to the Safeway," Li said.

When hikers found the young woman's body 11 days later, stuffed in a duffel bag in the woods near Mission, east of Vancouver, Li fled back to China.

An autopsy determined Zhao had been strangled.

Li was charged with second-degree murder but could not be brought back to face the charge.

Two B.C. NDP MLAs announced Tuesday that they had learned in an email from Zhao's mother that Li and his cousin, Han, both now 26, would be tried in China. Just what charges the two men face was not clear.

Han shared the Vancouver apartment with Li and Zhao. Han was arrested in June and Li was taken into custody in July, according to the email.

Han had pleaded guilty in a B.C. court to being an accessory after the fact for helping dispose of Zhao's body, but a Vancouver judge threw out his confession. He then returned to China.

"There has been agreement reached between the two jurisdictions and that is that the death penalty would be waived, that Ang Li, if convicted, would not face the death penalty," MLA Jenny Kwan told a Vancouver news conference.

MLA Mike Farnworth also attended the announcement.

The RCMP has known for months about the arrests but said it was not their role to comment.

Ang Li seen in 2002, returned to China shortly after his girlfriend's body was found in Mission, B.C. ((CBC))

"We never speak on behalf of another law enforcement agency, especially an agency outside of this country, " said RCMP spokeswoman Const. Annie Linteau.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, visiting Vancouver, said he hoped Zhao's family would be comforted to know suspects were in custody.

"There are multiple steps to ultimately have a trial and determine guilt or innocence, but we are committed to working with our Chinese counterparts to resolve this issue and get a conviction of those who are responsible," Harper told reporters.