British Columbia

RCMP to discuss evidence of Zhao murder case with Chinese officials

The RCMP plan to travel to China to discuss evidence in a six-year-old murder case involving a young woman who was killed after arriving in Canada to study English.
Amanda Zhao's body was found stuffed in a suitcase near Mission, B.C., 11 days after she disappeared on the evening of Oct. 9, 2002. ((CBC))

The RCMP plan to travel to China to discuss evidence in a six-year-old murder case involving a young woman who was killed after arriving in Canada to study English.

The decision to go to China was made last month, before the slain woman's parents came to B.C. earlier this week in a bid to get answers about their daughter's death, RCMP Chief Supt. Dick Bent said Thursday.

Bent made his comments on the day about 35 people attended a tearful memorial service for Amanda Zhao at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver's Chinatown.

Zhao, 20, was reported missing on Oct. 9, 2002. Hikers found her body 11 days later, stuffed in a suitcase in a wooded area near Mission, B.C., about 80 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Police questioned Zhao's live-in boyfriend, fellow exchange student Ang Li, but initially said he wasn't a suspect.

Ang Li, charged with second-degree murder in B.C., returned to China shortly after his girlfriend's body was found in Mission. ((CBC))

Li told police Zhao failed to return to their home in Burnaby after going to a grocery store to buy cooking oil. He left for China three days after Zhao's body was found and was subsequently charged in Canada with second-degree murder.

Zhao's father, Zisheng Zhao, and mother, Yang Baoying, are in Canada for two weeks. They met with the RCMP Wednesday and are scheduled to meet this week with Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson and Jason Kenny, the secretary of state for multiculturalism.

The RCMP have said China's death penalty and the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries are major hurdles in the efforts to prosecute Li.

Bent said Thursday that talks began in 2003, when Chinese officials came to the RCMP and inquired about "evidence sharing."

The RCMP contacted the Justice Department "and they got involved, particularly because there are concerns about death-penalty issues between Canada and China," Bent said.

Bent said RCMP officers planning to go to China will not hand their evidence against Li to Chinese authorities.

"We're telling them what evidence is available … to enable the discussions to continue with the Justice Department on the process for the evidence sharing."

Zhao case not idle: RCMP

The case has not been sitting idle in the years since Zhao was killed, Bent said.

"There have been ongoing discussions about how to make this work. We want to respect one another's legal traditions and make it work."

New Democrat MLA Jenny Kwan, who has been helping Zhao's parents since their arrival, was critical of the Canadian justice system.

"Six years later [the family] still have not received the answers that they want," Kwan said after the memorial service in Chinatown Thursday.

"The accused is still at large," she said. "There is no trial. I think that tells you something about the justice system and something needs to be done about that."

Kwan said she believes there's a way for Canada and China to come to an agreement about the dilemma that faces the Justice Department over Li's possible execution if he's convicted.

"I know that it has been done before with criminal matters, where two parties came together and negotiated," she said.