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B.C. MLA questions China's delay in taking accused to trial

Chinese student Wei (Amanda) Zhao, 21, and her boyfriend, Li Ang, are shown in an undated photo. Ms. Zhao, 21, disappeared in 2002 after leaving her suburban Burnaby, B.C., apartment to walk to a grocery store. Police identified a body about two weeks later as that of Ms. Zhao.

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Nearly a year and a half after his arrest, the chief suspect in the 2002 Burnaby murder of Chinese student Amanda Zhao has yet to stand trial in China.

Concerned about the delay, New Democrat MLA Jenny Kwan has written to the head of the Beijing law courts asking authorities why it has taken so long for the high-profile murder case against Jiaming Li, formerly known as Ang Li, to proceed. Mr. Li was Ms. Zhao's live-in boyfriend.

"When will this case go to trial?" Ms. Kwan asks in her letter. She delivered it on Friday to local Chinese consul general, Liang Shugen. He promised to forward the letter to court officials in Beijing.

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Ms. Kwan, who has taken a keen interest in the case for several years, said she was writing in her capacity as a member of British Columbia's legislative assembly.

"There is strong interest here in this matter," she said in an interview, "and Ms. Zhao's family is clearly anxious about these delays. I don't know the Chinese judicial system, so I have no idea what is taking so long. I am just trying to get some facts and information."

In 2007, Ms. Kwan organized a Canadian visit by the victim's heartbroken parents to plead for an end to the long jurisdictional squabble between Canada and China, which had stymied proceedings since Mr. Li was charged with second-degree murder by prosecutors in B.C.

By then, the accused had fled to China. The People's Republic refused to return Mr. Li to Canada, arguing that the case was theirs to prosecute since both Ms. Zhao and Mr. Li were Chinese citizens.

The RCMP began co-operating with Chinese investigators not long after the visit by Ms. Zhao's parents, and Mr. Li was arrested in June, 2009.

The accused man's cousin, Han Zhang, was also arrested as an accomplice, for allegedly helping Mr. Li stuff Ms. Zhao's body into a large equipment bag and dump it near a lake in the Fraser Valley.

The three Chinese students had been sharing a basement apartment in Burnaby, when Ms. Zhao, then 21, was killed in October of 2002.

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In return for its eventual cooperation with China authorities on the Li case, Canada is believed to have sought assurances that he would not face the death penalty, if found guilty.

Ms. Zhao's mother, a poorly-paid school teacher, has long voiced concern that the accused's parents are high-ranking officials, who may be meddling to have the charge dropped against their son.

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