'Lai was famous once, but Xiamen has moved on'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am


Some Xiamen residents appeared ambivalent about Lai Changxing after the sentencing, with two saying the case was history.

'He was quite famous in Xiamen back then, and has contributed a lot to Xiamen's economy,' a 40-year-old woman said.

A 27-year-old technician said she had not paid a lot of attention to the case. 'This matter happened a long time ago,' she said. 'Xiamen has already moved on from his time and the impact of his case.'

A hot topic on the internet was the enormous amount of tax that Lai was accused of evading.

'Lai smuggled 27.395 billion yuan, and evaded tax of 13.99 billion yuan. The tariff rate is 51 per cent,' one Twitter user wrote.

Another, referring to the high tariffs in the days before China joined the World Trade Organisation, wrote: 'With a tariff rate this high, we now know who is the real criminal.'

While some internet users questioned why Lai was not sentenced to death, lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said Lai's life sentence was not surprising because smuggling was no longer a crime punishable by death after amendments to the Criminal Law last year, which he believed were introduced to facilitate Lai's extradition. China also promised Canada it would not to execute Lai.

'There is even room for reduction of sentencing and parole after 10 years.' But Liu said the trial had not been transparent enough, a point rights advocates and international watchers worried about when China was fighting to have Lai returned.

'So far we've only heard the official version of the case, and nothing from the defence lawyer or the family,' Liu said. 'We don't even know who his lawyer was.'

Some overseas reports quoting Lai's lawyer in Canada, David Matas, said Lai's lawyer is Yang Xiaohong from the Chaoyang law firm in Beijing, who is also legal counsel for the Chaoyang district government.

A staff member at the law firm was reluctant to confirm whether Yang was Lai's lawyer, but confirmed that Yang was in Xiamen.

Xinhua said Xiamen Intermediate People's Court held an open trial between April 6 and 22 that was attended by Lai's family, some members of the public, government officials, National People's Congress deputies and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegates.

International media reports said Canadian diplomats attended the trial, but the Canadian embassy could not be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by Laura Zhou