Ottawa should intervene in killer’s application for refugee status in New Zealand, B.C. MP says


A member of Parliament is calling on top ministers to intervene after learning a man who killed his former girlfriend while she was studying in British Columbia more than two decades ago is now trying to live in New Zealand as a refugee.

Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver—East, sent a letter to four federal ministers on Friday saying she recently learned from Amanda Zhao’s mother that her daughter’s killer, Ang Li, has been seeking refugee status in New Zealand after living there for years with his family.

In her letter, Kwan referred to Li as Li Jiaming, one of many names he has assumed, including Zongyuan Li and Leo Li.

“Ms. Yang has indicated that even though Li Jiaming was handed criminal and civil judgments, not only has he failed to show any remorse for this heinous crime, he also failed to comply to the court order to pay any compensation to the family,” Kwan wrote, referring to Baoying Yang, Zhao’s mother.

“She is urging the Government of New Zealand to not be fooled by [Li’s] lies.”

Ang Li fled to China shortly after Amanda Zhao’s body was discovered. (CBC)

Li had been living with Zhao, 21, when she disappeared from their Burnaby, B.C., home in 2002. Hikers found her body stuffed inside a suitcase at Stave Lake near Mission, B.C., two weeks after she vanished.

Three days later, Li fled to China.

Li was convicted of murder in 2012, though a court in Beijing later downgraded the conviction to manslaughter — effectively reducing his life sentence to seven years.

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In her letter, Kwan said Zhao’s mother was “shocked and angry” to learn her daughter’s killer was in New Zealand. She referenced an interview Li gave to a local newspaper claiming Zhao was still alive and “walking around somewhere,” despite DNA testing having confirmed the body to be Zhao’s.

“To say something like that is hurtful, is disgraceful, is disgusting. And, you know, the family has yet to receive an apology from Ang Li taking their daughter — their only daughter,” Kwan said in an interview from Ottawa on Monday.

“Nothing could ever bring Amanda back for the family. But at the very least, show remorse.”

The family also said Li has not paid the 1,133,300 Yuan ($222,580 CAD) he was ordered to give Zhao’s family as compensation for her death when his sentence was reduced in 2014.

“Ms. Yang believes that Li … is concealing his wealth to evade this legal responsibility,” Kwan wrote. 

The MP called on the ministers to send information on Li’s criminal history to authorities in New Zealand before they make their decision.

“It is critical that Canada shares factual and pertinent information with the New Zealand immigration department for their consideration as Li Jiaming appeals the negative decision for his application for refugee and protected status in New Zealand,” Kwan wrote.

CBC News has contacted New Zealand’s immigration department for comment.

Lengthy legal case

Zhao was an international student who had been studying English in B.C. for about 15 months at the time she died. She was living with Li and his cousin, Han Zhang, at the time she disappeared.

Li, who was 18 at the time, told police Zhao had gone to the grocery store and never came back. At the time, Li said he blamed himself when speaking with reporters about his missing girlfriend.

“It’s my fault not to accompany … her to the Safeway,” Li said.

An autopsy later determined Zhao had been strangled. 

A man and woman pictured in profile, the woman to the left in the background wearing sunglasses and a ball cap; the man to the right, slightly out of focus, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Amanda Zhao’s parents, Baoying Yang and Zisheng Zhao, at a news conference in Vancouver in October 2008. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Li’s initial escape to China under the shadow of a potential murder charge led to years-long diplomatic and legal wrangling between Canadian and Chinese authorities over who would prosecute the case.

Canada tried unsuccessfully to extradite Li, but eventually agreed to help Chinese investigators after Beijing said it would not seek the death penalty if he was convicted.

China maintained it had jurisdiction because Li and Zhao were both Chinese nationals.

Zhang, 19 at the time, was charged with being an accessory after the fact in Zhao’s death.

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