Overview: Dealing with extraditions to China


This platform is primarily aimed at legal practitioners defending against extraditions to China in judicial proceedings. It also includes some sections that will be useful for policy-makers and media professionals, a section on the human rights situation in China for asylum seekers, and an exploration on China’s use of extrajudicial methods to force individuals to return outside formal bilateral mechanisms and the judicial safeguards afforded under international law.

For a detailed overview of the content in each section, see How to Use this Information Center below. Links to the individual sections are listed the bottom of this page

We also highly recommend you read our report, Returned without Rights, or the full guide on dealing with extraditions to China, Hide and Seek. The latter provides a one-stop source linking all relevant legal arguments. Links to both are in the top right-hand corner of this page.

Key documents can be downloaded in the top right column of each section. At the bottom of each section, you will find links to additional resources online (such as UN statements, country reports, etc.).

In addition to the publicly-available information in this resource center, Safeguard Defenders has also produced a number of expert reports (and appeared as expert witnesses) for courts in judicial extradition proceedings. These reports are not published but are available to legal counsel upon request. Safeguard Defenders is also open to considering drafting specific expert reports or appearing as expert witnesses in court. For all such requests, please contact us via the Request Assistance section.

If you are an individual at risk of extradition to China or Hong Kong and have trouble finding legal assistance or need expert advice, please contact us via the Request Assistance section.

If you are a target of China’s transnational repression or face extrajudicial pressure from Chinese authorities to return to China, please consult our Pilot Reporting Guide on Transnational Repression for recommended actions.

Policy-makers or media professionals interested in engaging further on these issues may reach us through the general Contact Us section on our website. 

Note: This resource center uses an automated translation function to allow us to as wide an audience as possible. Currently, it is available in English (original), Arabic, Chinese (simplified), French, Spanish, and Russian. More languages will be added over time. When using translated versions for official purposes, please independently verify the accuracy of translations against the original language version or reach out to us for assistance. 


A brief background on extraditions to China

China began its push towards expanding international judicial cooperation in the mid-2000’s, having signed its first extradition treaty in 1993 (with Thailand). The pace has only increased since 2012 when Xi Jinping came to power. Bilateral extradition treaties have long been considered the crown jewel of such cooperation agreements, as CCP propaganda likens them to a “demonstration of the international community’s trust in China’s rule of law system”. Furthermore, they are considered a key element in the CCP’s ability to expand its long-arm policing power across the globe and send a clear warning message to dissenting voices and critics that nowhere is safe from Beijing. 

As of 2024, China has signed more than 59 bilateral extradition treaties, of which 45 have been ratified. For more on the expanding network of extradition treaties, see China expands system of extradition treaties. Since Xi Jinping came to power and launched the "FoxHunt" fugitive-hunting campaign in 2014, China has engaged in some 70 attempts to have nearly 400 people extradited, most of whom were in Europe. A database of cases is available in the Past Cases and Judgments section.

Over the past decade, China's extradition focus has been on Europe, with a significant number of newly signed and ratified extradition treaties, as well as successful extradition requests. At least part of the reasoning behind that push appears to have been the element of legitimization and prestige success brought to judicial cooperation for China. This made it easier for Beijing to then conclude similar agreements in other parts of the world. Even so, China still often resorts to extrajudicial returns as a cheaper and faster option when it comes to other regions such as Southeast and Central Asia or parts of Africa and the Middle East.

However, most recently, European courts have begun refusing China’s extradition requests based on the  international principle of non-refoulement. Following the European Court of Human Rights’ Liu v. Poland judgment of 6 October 2022 (entry into effect: January 30, 2023), subsequent court rulings across European member states have been subject to the erga omnes effect (e.g., applicable to all extraditions to China). 

Similarly, UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs have consistently raised the principle of non-refoulement with regard to individuals targeted for extradition by China around the world. 

The upholding of international human rights obligations has made the extradition process in Europe increasingly burdensome for Beijing. Despite this, several requests are still ongoing and more may arrive as China (and Hong Kong) continue to misuse international police cooperation mechanisms such as INTERPOL.


Why is extradition to China an issue and what is our purpose?

Under the UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Refugee Convention, international law has established the absolute prohibition of refoulement, e.g. the rendition of an individual to a country “when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be at risk of irreparable harm upon return, including persecution, torture, ill- treatment or other serious human rights violations”. Similar commitments of non-refoulement are enshrined in regional human rights instruments, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as many bi- or multilateral extradition instruments.

Considering the problematic state of the Chinese criminal justice system and its marked deterioration since the mid-2010s, extradition requests should fail when tested against these international legal commitments. Vice versa, whenever they are approved for whatever (political or geopolitical) reason, those very norms and institutions are weakened. This is at a time when the entire international rules-based order is already under attack, as authoritarian States, including China, seek to undermine the protection of universally-recognized human rights. 

The responsibility to protect these values lie with the host countries who receive extradition requests.

While the responsibility  for bringing its criminal justice system in line with international human rights standards, ensure fair and transparent trials, grant those accused of crimes timely access to lawyers of their own choosing, and end the practices of enforced disappearances and torture in order to extract forced confessions, is on the Chinese authorities. 

In the meantime, upholding basic non-derogable principles in extradition cases to China is an obligation that befalls every single other UN Member State. This is a responsibility both to protect the fundamental rights of the individuals involved AND to uphold the international rule of law. 

It is for China to improve its institutions and procedures, not for other countries to worsen theirs. 

Safeguard Defenders has not, and does not, directly take on any extradition case on behalf of any individual.

We do however support legal counsel working on extradition cases to protect internationally recognized-judicial safeguards and adherence to the rule of law and universal human rights.


How to use this information center

For an integrated overview of all issues related to extradition with China, we highly recommend you read our full manual Hide and Seek first. This guide on dealing with extraditions to China provides a one-stop shop linking all relevant legal arguments and will facilitate navigating the topical supporting documents contained in this information center. Link to download is in the top-right corner of this page.

Provides information on China's criminal justice system and issues that impact extradition decisions. It also contains a number of reports from Safeguard Defenders on China's criminal justice system. It seeks to answer a number of questions, such as:

> Is the extradition legal according to Chinese law?

> What are the conditions before trial (detention)?

> What are the conditions of the court and the potential trial?

> What are the conditions in prisons?

> What are the relevant white papers, official statements, and officially released data as it relates to potential extraditions?

Provides critical information for any extradition procedure, including UN-related reviews and statements and country reports on China, describing other outside assessments of the Chinese judiciary and human rights situation. These will impact strongly on how Courts in those countries, or neighbouring countries, should handle extraditions to China. 

> What do various countries say about China's judiciary and human rights situation?

> What do UN reviews and statements say about China's judiciary and human rights situation?

Includes international and regional legal instruments, as well as the specifics of China's own extradition law. It also collects precedent-setting case law from the European Court of Human Rights and other reports. 

> What does China’s own extradition law say?

> What are the contents of bilateral extradition treaties?

> What is the legal value of China's diplomatic assurances?

> What limitations does international law place on the use of extraditions?

> What is the state of extraditions to China in relation to non-refoulement, as well as other UN (and regional European) legal instruments?

Provides a database on known extradition requests from China since 2014, other information on general developments regarding extraditions to China and an overview of key extradition request rulings from around the world. 

> What rulings have there been on China's extradition requests and what are the courts' reasonings?

> What rulings can be either legally binding or precedent-setting in your jurisdiction?

Provides information on how China uses covert methods, sometimes in conjunction with formal extradition proceedings, to return an individual to China. These methods blatantly violate the host country’s judicial independence and severely undermine the integrity of the extradition process. Since this occurs just as often in countries with extradition treaties as in those without, this information is key to defending against China's extradition requests. 

> What methods are being used and how can I recognize them?

> How may these methods impact the legal defense against an extradition request?

> Where should I report instances of attempts to return an individual through extrajudicial means?

Section under development. Check back shortly.

Provides overviews of the main legal arguments and judicial precedents to counter extraditions to China, as well as political arguments for suspending bilateral extradition treaties with China and Hong Kong.

Bilateral extradition treaties reward China's gross, flagrant, and mass violations of human rights, and support it in expanding its long-arm policing footprint around the world. It makes signatories complicit in China's efforts to restrict individuals’ fundamental freedoms (chilling effect), engage in arbitrary detention and breach the non-derogable principle of non-refoulement. It may further expose its own nationals to the risk of hostage diplomacy in a tit-for-tat for the return of individuals wanted by Beijing or Hong Kong.


In addition to the publicly-available information in this resource center, Safeguard Defenders has also produced a number of expert reports (and appeared as expert witnesses) for courts in judicial extradition proceedings. These reports are not published but are available to legal counsel upon request. Safeguard Defenders is also open to considering drafting specific expert reports or appearing as expert witnesses in court. For all such requests, please contact us via the Request Assistance section.