Border agency weighed torture risk before allowing Chinese official’s testimony

Torture risk weighed in refugee case

OTTAWA — Canada’s border agency looked at whether China’s Public Security Bureau had used torture to extract information before allowing a Shanghai police officer to testify at a refugee hearing in Canada.

The Canada Border Services Agency also scrutinized Wei Huang’s history to see if he should even be allowed to enter Canada to testify in the case of Shiyuan Shen, a refugee claimant wanted in China for alleged fraud, court documents show.

The border agency concluded in October 2012 it was “possible” — but not likely — the evidence of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau officer was derived from torture.

“There are credible reports of mistreatment by the Shanghai police,” the border agency assessment says. But it adds there was “no evidence” that Shen’s unit, the economic crimes department, was known to rely on torture.

Ultimately, border agency officials decided Huang could testify in Shen’s case.

However, the internal documents detailing their considerations about torture were disclosed to Shen only late last year.

Shen, a businessman in Richmond, B.C., denies any involvement in fraud and claims Chinese officials are targeting him for political reasons.

He is fighting to see the full content of the redacted border agency records in his bid to stay in Canada. Shen also maintains the federal government should have released the documents to him years ago.

Shen’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman, argued at a Federal Court hearing Monday the government committed a flagrant abuse by withholding the records given their relevance to his client’s refugee claim. 

“I don’t make these accusations lightly,” Waldman said during a two-hour hearing.

Lawyer Helen Park, representing the federal government, denied any impropriety, saying the records in question were not disclosed earlier because they were subject to litigation privilege — a measure intended to allow parties time to prepare their arguments.

Waldman countered that there was no indication the government ever claimed privilege over the documents.

“It’s a theoretical claim that hasn’t been made.”

Shen left China in February 2002 and lived in the United States before arriving in Canada 10 years ago.

He married a Canadian and applied for permanent residence. However, the border services agency arrested him for suspected involvement in illegal activities in China related to the steel trade, based on an outstanding warrant issued by the Public Security Bureau in Shanghai.

In March 2011, Shen applied for refugee protection in Canada. At his refugee hearing, he argued the Crown was required to disclose all documents obtained from China related to his case.

Shen’s refugee application was rejected, and he challenged the decision. 

Federal authorities concede that more information should have been disclosed to Shen. But they are refusing to release the full contents of the two border services agency documents.

One withheld passage outlines a recommendation as to whether Huang should be allowed to enter Canada.

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Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press