China

Canada deports Chinese activist Yang Wei over knife crimes

Clashes in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China on June 04, 1989. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Activist Yang Wei was one of thousands involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests

Canada has deported a former Chinese dissident who was deemed a threat to public safety after he committed a string of violent acts.

Yang Wei was resettled in Canada years ago by the UN refugee agency, after Beijing jailed him for his involvement in pro-democracy movements.

But Yang, who is said to have mental health issues, went on to commit a series of offences in Canada.

Activists had argued it would be "dangerous" for him to return to China.

"They [the Chinese government] will be waiting for him," Sheng Xue, a Chinese human rights activist based in Canada who hosted Yang at her home after he arrived in Canada told the New York Times.

One former diplomat, also speaking to the New York Times, said Yang faced a certain return to prison then "brutality and solitary confinement".

'I can't fall into their clutches again'

Yang, 49, first attracted the attention of Chinese authorities after his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTiananmen's tank man: The image that China forgot

As a teenager, he posted flyers calling for an "uprising to overthrow the dictatorship", Ms Sheng said to news outlet The Globe and Mail. He was jailed for three years as a result.

Upon his release, he joined a pro-democracy party. In 1999 he escaped arrest by fleeing China.

He first defected to Thailand, and was eventually resettled in Canada where he obtained permanent residency in 2003, said The Globe and Mail.

But according to Toronto police reports, he committed various offences between 2006 and 2010, including stabbing a bus driver at least 13 times and threatening a salesman with a butcher's knife.

He was arrested repeatedly and declared by a court to be a dangerous offender.

His lawyers and supporters said his behaviour was the result of mental health problems, with numerous psychiatric reports also attesting to this, according to the New York Times.

'A danger to the Canadian public'

But a 2017 recommendation to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship found that Mr Yang posed "a present and future danger to the Canadian public".

Adam Wawrzkiewicz, a lawyer for Yang, told the New York Times that the government justified the deportation on the grounds that he was deemed a threat to public safety.

He was sent back to China on Wednesday.

"Once he's repatriated, his life will vanish in the prisons of the dictatorship," exiled Chinese author Liao Yiwu wrote in a statement on Facebook.

"I remember in 1999, Yang Wei had been fleeing arrest for several months... [when he] suddenly knocked on my door. [He said], the last time I fell into [police] hands, they hanged me upside down... slammed my head against the wall until I was unconscious. I can't fall into their clutches again."

Yang's deportation comes during a period of escalated tensions between China and Canada, inflamed by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, an executive with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Meng's arrest has inflamed tensions between China and Canada

Two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were taken into custody in China shortly after Canada arrested Ms Meng on behalf of the US. The duo have been accused of harming national security.

Their arrests have widely been viewed as a bid to pressure Canada into releasing Ms Meng.

More on this story