Mother enraged as killer claims Amanda Zhao might be alive
In 2002, Yang Baoying flew from China to Vancouver to discover the body of his daughter, Amanda Zhao.
The remains of a 21-year-old English student were found stuffed in a suitcase in Mission, B.C., and Young’s daughter was also identified by police DNA testing.
Yang returned to Peking with Zhao’s ashes. He was “brought home,” his mother said.
More than 20 years later, any sense of closure for that proposed act was shattered by claims from Zhao’s convicted killer, Ang Li, that he had been framed by the Chinese government and Zhao might not be dead at all.
Li said in an interview with New Zealand’s Herald Sunday newspaper that Zhao could “still be alive and walking around somewhere” because he called himself a “political target”.
Li, who served time in China for Zhao’s murder, is now seeking refugee status in New Zealand and posed for newspapers draped in a Tibetan flag, hands in prayer.
Young told The Canadian Press that Lee’s claims about her daughter left her with “extreme shock and anger.” He was also appalled by her claim to be a victim of persecution.
“So who will trust your words this time?” Yang said of Li in a Mandarin interview. “Going through this is heartbreaking. I don’t think that any country will be ready to accept this piece of dirt.”
Lee, he said, was “worse than an animal.”
The 38-year-old man, using the name Leo Jiaming Li, is applying to the New Zealand government for asylum, saying in a petition to the country’s parliament that he and his “Tibetan family” have been tortured and harassed by China’s communist government.
His case represented a “touchstone for democracy,” he wrote on a petition that received 1,315 signatures and was sent to the government last week.
Lee reportedly told The Herald on Sunday that he had participated in Tibetan rights protests in China and that his father, a military official, had defied government orders to carry out the genocide.
Lee also participated in Tibetan rights demonstrations in New Zealand, but his participation was rejected by the president of the Auckland Tibetan Association, Nyandak Rishul.
Rishul said Tibetans in Auckland were “upset and disappointed” to hear Lee’s various claims motivated by “selfish needs”.
“Lee often participated in demonstrations, carrying a photo of the Dalai Lama and throwing the Tibetan flag over him. Leo is not Tibetan, nor of Tibetan descent, nor does he speak our language.
“We assumed he was a sympathizer of the Tibetan cause, but if we had known about his past, we would have prevented him from participating in our rallies and marches,” Rishul said.
He added that Lee should be banned from any activities of the Tibetan community because “we have nothing to do with him”.
Andrew Lockhart, acting director-general of Immigration New Zealand’s refugee services, said in a written statement that he could not discuss Lee’s case beyond confirming that it was being heard by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
Young said he was confident New Zealand authorities would reject Lee’s claims, calling him a “blatant liar”.
“He should not be above the law and live outside. Everyone should know Lee’s true colors,” he said.
“No matter how perfectly he tries to disguise himself and even if he tries to hide at the edge of the sky or the corner of the Earth, he is always a killer.”
Ian remembered his daughter as a blessing who would surprise her with gifts and loving messages.
“He was a very kind, compassionate, loving and caring child, and he was always learning a lot,” Ian said.
Zhao was studying English at Covitlam College when he was arrested in 2002. She was reported missing in October. Ten days later, her body was found in a suitcase near Mission, BC.
Zhao’s friend Li, then a student at Simon Fraser University, returned to China three days after Zhao’s remains were discovered.
In 2003, Li was charged in Canada with second-degree murder, but because Canada has no extradition treaty with China, Li could not be brought back to trial. Instead, the RCMP turned over evidence in the case to Chinese prosecutors after the country agreed to forgo the death penalty.
“After we returned home to China, the Chinese police also did (DNA) tests on me and my husband to confirm that Wei Zhao is dead,” Yang said, referring to her daughter’s Chinese name.
Chinese court documents reviewed by The Canadian Press show Li was originally sentenced to life in prison for Zhao’s murder, but in 2014 the High People’s Court in Beijing, China changed the charge from manslaughter to manslaughter and reduced the sentence to seven. year imprisonment. The documents do not explain why the charge and sentence were reduced.
Lee was released in 2016 and traveled to New Zealand, where the Herald reported he now has a wife and two sons.
Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan, who has been helping Zhao’s family seek justice since 2008, has asked the Canadian government to share information about the case with New Zealand authorities so they are not “fooled by Li’s blatant lies”.
The family again wrote to Kwan for help after hearing about Lee’s refugee claim.
“The family is very hurt, very angry about this and that is why they have written to me so that the truth can be revealed and shared with the New Zealand authorities,” said Kwan, who has written to Foreign Minister Melanie Joly about it. business
Kwan wants the government to send to New Zealand the report released by BC coroner Kent Stewart, which identified Zhao’s remains as having died of strangulation.
Yang said that in addition to Li being denied refugee status in New Zealand, he wants him to pay more than $220,000 in compensation ordered by a Chinese court. So far, they have received nothing, he said.
He said he wrote to Chinese authorities on Saturday to intervene in Li’s case and shared a handwritten letter in Chinese.
“Is the Chinese government, who has been convicted of murder and refused to obey the law, still be allowed to leave the country? Why are the measures and restrictions set by you not effective? Is he privileged?” Ian writes.
Yang said in an interview that after losing her daughter, “a day seems like years.”
“People who haven’t experienced the loss of a child won’t understand the pain I went through and I’m still suffering,” she said.
Lee did not respond to requests for comment via social media.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 16, 2023.
This story was produced with financial support from Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.
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