A B.C. husband and wife are facing 10 years to life imprisonment in China for allegedly under-reporting the value of wine they export to that country. And the Canadian government is under fire for not doing more to help them.
Chinese customs officials in Shanghai have charged John Chang, 62, and his wife Allison Lu with smuggling. Their trial is scheduled to begin May 26.
Both have been under arrest since March 2016. Chang has been in jail since then. Lu was held until January, but was forced to surrender her passport and is barred from leaving China.
Push for PM intervention
Lawyers and politicians lining up behind the couple describe their detention as outrageous, excessive and a gross violation of personal liberty and security.
They’re pushing the federal Liberal government to intervene immediately, claiming Chang’s physical and mental health is deteriorating behind bars.
Chang and Lu operate Lulu Island Winery. According to the company web site, it is the largest winery in Richmond, B.C., producing “table wines, fruit wines and…ice wines.”
Before the couple’s arrest, the winery claimed its exports accounted “for almost 20 per cent of all Canadian wine exported to China.”
Last July, Chinese state-run media showed boxes of Lulu Island wine being examined by customs officials, and reported “a certain brand of ice wine in Canada” had been declared at around 10 Yuan a bottle (under $2 Cdn), when it was worth many times that amount.
On Friday, Gerry Ritz, Conservative international trade critic, raised the case during question period in the House of Commons.
Assault on rights, says MP
“The arrest of Mr. Chang and Ms. Lu for a fabricated customs violation is an assault on their basic rights, a breach of China’s international trade obligations and China’s own customs…