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Parents of slain Chinese girl slam Canada for inaction

The heartbroken father of slain Chinese student Amanda Zhao poured out his grief over her death and his anger at Canada's inability to bring her killer to justice at an emotional press conference yesterday that left some reporters weeping as well.

Less than 24 hours after arriving in Canada on a quest to a resolve a case that has languished for six years, Zisheng Zhao alternately howled, wept and buried his face in his hands as he struggled unsuccessfully to keep his distress in check while speaking publicly about Ms. Zhao's death for the first time.

"They found her body in a lake, in a case," he said, amid sobs. "I am still feeling terrible. Since my daughter was six years old, she was always a good student. I think about her every night."

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Mr. Zhao noted that if his daughter were alive today, she'd be 28, "grown up and an adult. She'd be a good citizen. She was our only daughter and now she has left us. What can we do?"

Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of Ms. Zhao's death. She was slain in a Burnaby basement apartment she shared with her boyfriend Li Ang, also a Chinese national studying in Canada. Months after he fled to China, Mr. Li was charged with second-degree murder.

Since then, however, the case has been stuck in a jurisdictional stalemate between Canadian and Chinese authorities. Canada insists that Mr. Li be sent back here to stand trial. China says the crime is a matter for the Chinese police because both the victim and the suspect were its citizens. So far, Canada has refused all requests to co-operate with Chinese investigators.

The situation has only deepened the parents' pain and frustration as the case drags on with no resolution.

Touched by their plight, benefactors in Canada have paid for the couple to come to B.C., where they have meetings scheduled with Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson and RCMP Chief Superintendent Richard Bent.

Ms. Zhao's parents are bitter at what they perceive as a long history of Canadian inaction in their daughter's killing.

"The Canadian government hasn't done anything for us," Mr. Zhao said. "They told us six years ago that it would be resolved very soon, and still we wait. I want to have this case settled, to have the accused brought to justice, in my lifetime, and I don't intend to live to be 100.

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"This case may not seem like a big deal, but to me, to us, to our family, it's a huge deal, and the accused is still free," he said.

His wife, Yang Baoying, her small fists clenched with emotion, accused Canada of doing little for the past six years.

"They are not really dealing with us. We send them letters and e-mails and they don't respond," she said. "This is a fairly simple case. It's not complex. We believe the Canadian government can quickly reach a deal with China over this. Yet over the past six years, it has not moved forward."

Ms. Yang said Canada has preached about human rights in the case, referring to concerns that Mr. Li might be executed if found guilty by a Chinese court of killing Amanda Zhao.

"But my daughter who came to Canada to study didn't have the right to live, so how can we talk about human rights?"

Although the case has received little publicity in China, yesterday's press conference in a small provincial NDP caucus room was packed. The retired couple, however, did not seem disturbed by the onslaught of media attention, thanking reporters for their continued interest in the case. They vowed never to give up until someone is brought to justice.

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"We will push and push," Mr. Zhao said. "If we have to, we will take this all the way to the prime minister of Canada." The parents' trip has been spearheaded by New Democratic MLA Jenny Kwan, caucus colleague Mike Farnworth, and Burnaby MP Bill Siksay.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," Ms. Kwan said.

A memorial service will be held tomorrow at the Chinese Cultural Centre to mark the sixth anniversary of Ms. Zhao's death.

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