A Canadian tribunal has ruled that China’s allegations against Michael Mo Yeung Ching have not been established, paving the way for a settlement of Ching’s defamation lawsuit against the South China Morning Post and putting him on the path to Canadian citizenship. For Vancouver businessman Ching, the victory comes almost 20 years after first applying for citizenship, and many years of related litigation. Ching and the South China Morning Post settled his defamation lawsuit against the newspaper and reporter Ian Young about coverage of his story in 2015 without any admissions of liability. In an interview this week, Ching revealed a June 12 Immigration and Refugee Board ruling that said Canadian immigration authorities failed to show he had committed any criminal acts in China. SCMP Managing Editor Brian Rhoads said the Post was pleased to report this important development about Ching, and to resolve the Post’s legal case with him. Canadian authorities had long tried to block Ching’s citizenship application on the basis of now-discredited Chinese allegations against him. Likewise, an Interpol wanted notice against Ching, requested by Beijing, was revoked in 2016. In 2018, a Canadian Federal Court judge ruled that previous immigration decisions against Ching had been tainted by reliance on evidence obtained by the use of torture by Chinese authorities. “[The] Inadmissibility Decision discloses an abuse of process in respect of … the evidence found by the ID [Immigration Division] to have been obtained by torture,” wrote Mr Justice Alan Diner. When Ching’s case next came before the IRB this year, it reached a similar conclusion. Ching, 50, son of former Hebei governor Cheng Weigao, is known in Canada as property developer Michael Mo Yeung Ching, and in China as Cheng Muyang. Cheng Weigao was an ally of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, and was for years the most powerful man in Hebei, population 75 million. But Cheng fell out of favour amid a shift at the pinnacle of Chinese power that saw Hu Jintao succeed Jiang as president and party secretary. Cheng Weigao was eventually expelled from the Chinese Communist Party in 2003, but was never charged with any crime. A Chinese investigation of those surrounding Cheng resulted in a warrant being issued for his son, Ching, in early 2001, but by then Ching had been a permanent resident of Canada for almost five years. The Chinese accusation had been used as the basis for the now-withdrawn Interpol Red Notice. The South China Morning Post reported in 2015 that Ching is Cheng Muyang. Litigation between Ching and the Post ensued over the articles. One fact reported concerned an April 30, 2015 statement issued by the government of Canada in respect of Ching’s immigration proceedings, then retracted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. If this or any Post article implied any wrongdoing by Ching, the Post regrets that implication. Ching says he emigrated openly and without subterfuge, and there were no charges against him in China at the time. The Post knows of no evidence that proves any charges in China. He says he had no involvement whatsoever in any graft or corruption. Ching’s position has been vindicated in subsequent Canadian decisions. But even in litigation, Ching’s circumstances demonstrate the differences between the legal systems of China and Canada. TWO VERY DIFFERENT SYSTEMS Ching’s case highlights failings and abuses within the Chinese system, in the context of people in Canada who are wanted by Beijing. The Chinese legal system is far from transparent, and it is this system that Ching has been understandably anxious to avoid. Canada does not have an extradition treaty with China, but Ching could potentially have been deported if he had lost his immigration case. Canadian judges examining Ching’s legal situation have been deeply sceptical about relying on the Chinese system to come to conclusions about him. In 2015, Federal Court judge Yvan Roy said a decision by the refugee protection division had depended on a Chinese court ruling against Ching’s supposed associates. But Ching was not on trial, Roy noted, and the evidence was “fuzzy and third-hand”. “I fail to see how serious reasons [to believe in Ching’s wrongdoing] can come solely from the findings of another court without having a clear understanding of what the evidence against the applicant was,” said Roy. In subsequent proceedings, fellow Federal Court judge Mr Justice Diner expressed similar doubts in reviewing a decision about Ching by the Immigration Appeals Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. “[The] IAD had a duty to deal with and make findings on those portions of the evidence found by the [Immigration Division] to have been obtained through the torture of Mr Ching’s associates. “The IAD failed in that duty, leaving doubt as to whether evidence allegedly obtained by torture impacted its decision.” The June 12 IRB ruling appears to have brought his immigration legal proceedings to a close. In the course of Michael Ching’s long battle, his father passed away in 2010. DEEP ROOTS IN CANADA In Canada, Ching has been free to participate in the political system as a donor to various parties. Ching has put down deep roots in Vancouver and Richmond. He is the developer behind a string of successful projects, his latest the near-completion International Trade Centre in Richmond. The complex features two office towers and a luxury hotel. In 2012, he was among the recipients of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, awarded for significant contributions to the community. He has also been an active member of the Richmond Lion’s Club, and a donor to various charitable causes. Ching is anxious to continue to live in Canada. Here, he is afforded the rights conferred by a democratic political system, and a transparent court system. In recognition of the fact that the settlement of the litigation over the SCMP’s 2015 coverage of Ching has avoided significant court costs, Ching and the Post have made a substantial joint donation to the Richmond Hospital Foundation and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.