Poland’s courts are deciding whether to extradite Chinese citizens accused of crimes in China

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A Chinese man residing in Poland has become the focus of an ad-hoc but potentially precedent-setting trial of whether European countries, bound by human rights commitments both nationally and internationally, will extradite China’s citizens when the Chinese government accuses them of a crime.

The man, Li Zhizhou, 53, has been in Europe since 2013. China has since accused him of fraud and asked Poland to extradite him — Poland does not have an extradition agreement with China, so China can only ask nicely in this case.

Polish authorities as well as those from other European countries (particularly Sweden because Li is now a Swedish national) and human rights groups are weighing several issues: China has one-party control over it’s judicial system and a 99% conviction rate; if returned, the sentence the man would likely receive as punishment is broadly considered out of proportion with what Poland and it’s EU neighbors could accept as just; the man is reported to be a practitioner of the Falun Gong religion which is outlawed in China and for which China could decide to also prosecute him, with a possible sentence of life imprisonment or death.

In recent years, Sweden and the Czech republic have denied similar Chinese requests, but the high-profile Polish case is still being watched as potentially precedent-setting.