Monthly Archives: December 2011
Matthew Ng was offered a deal he couldn’t refuse.
But he did — and it will cost him the next thirteen years of his life.
In 2006 and 2008, Ng’s travel company, Et-China, bought a controlling interest in a company called GZL, a subsidiary of the Communist party-run Lingnan Group. Lingnan later asked Ng to sell the shares back at the original price but Ng, a Chinese-born Australian citizen now had an offer from Swiss travel group Kuoni , to sell the entire company for US$100 million and refused.
In November 2010, Ng and others from GZL were arrested and detained. Chinese prosecutors accused Ng of illegally transferring money between Et-China and GZL, and bribing GZL officials. Australian consular officials, Ng’s lawyers and family, were all told the hearing was to be merely procedural but prosecutors turned up with fresh evidence, giving Ng little chance to contest the evidence before he was sentenced.
Ng’s wife, Niki Chow, told The Australian newspaper in Guangzhou: “According to the notice from the court it was just going to be the presentation of new evidence, it was totally outside everybody’s expectations that the judge would read out the verdict after a 15-minute break.”
According to The Australian, Mrs Chow said the defence evidence was ignored by the courts and the judges paid heed only to the prosecutor.
Ng was given eight years for embezzlement, two for corruption, two-and-a-half years for a false capital declaration, and two for bribery after being detained for thirteen months from when he was originally tried last August.
Ng has been receiving Australian consular assistance. “We have made clear to Chinese authorities our strong interest in Mr Ng’s case,” said the Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement quoted by the BBC. The department said Prime Minister Julia Gillard had talked to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about Ng’s case, and other officials had spoken to the Guangdong government.
Australian officials indicated that they were constrained from commenting further as they expected Matthew Ng to appeal his harsh sentence. However an expert on Chinese legal affairs interviewed on ABC 24 News this morning (7/12/2011) said that the success rate for such appeals was about 1% and and so diplomatic representation seems the only option.
There are two other obstacles between Ng and justice: first, Chinese courts are far more likely to serve the interest of the Communist party and its officials than any semblance of natural justice and second, the concept of nationality and citizenship does not seem to exist in Chinese law. If you are ethnically Chinese you are subject to the whims of the flimsy Chinese legal system as if you were a Chinese citizen — regardless of where you were born or what passport you carry.
In China, ethnicity trumps nationality, a race-based concept that would scandalise any developed system of law or justice.
And yet this is a government with which Australia nurtures diplomatic, trade and even military cosiness.