Chinese court sentences Amanda Zhao's ex-boyfriend to life
Published Thursday, September 27, 2012 8:10AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 27, 2012 11:20PM EDT
Ten years after Amanda Zhao was slain in Vancouver, a Chinese court has found her former boyfriend has been found guilty of murder.
The court found Li Ang guilty on Wednesday night and sentenced him to life in prison, according to Zhao’s family.
Reporters weren’t allowed in the Beijing courtroom where the decisions was handed down, but Zhao’s mother and her mother’s cousin emerged flashing signs of victory, said CTV’s Beijing Bureau Chief Janis Mackey Frayer.
“Amanda Zhao’s mother and her mother’s cousin came out and even motioned from the stairs that victory seemed to be in their hands. (Her mother) read a prepared statement and said the verdict does bring her a little bit of comfort and she feels that Li Ang with his life sentence got what he deserved,” Mackey Frayer told CTV’s Canada AM.
The family of Li Ang, however, plans to appeal the decision.
“Li Ang’s mother is outraged. She said the verdict is ridiculous and the family plans to appeal it, and she believes her son was a scapegoat, that he was sacrificed due to political pressure,” Mackey Frayer said.
His family maintains Li’s confession three years ago was given under duress, and his lawyers claim he was tortured by Chinese police.
The charges against Li, who has now changed his name to Li Jiaming, stem from the discovery of Zhao’s body in a suitcase east of Vancouver on October 2002. Li was 18 at the time, while Zhao was 21 when she was found dead.
Police confirmed Zhao, who was studying in Canada as a foreign exchange student, had been strangled.
Days later, ex-boyfriend Li fled the country and returned to China before Canadian police could arrest him.
Years of diplomatic and legal wrangling ensued. There was no extradition agreement in place and Canadian police had no way of apprehending Li. China considered the case to be a domestic affair and decided to handle the investigation on Chinese soil.
It wasn’t until 2009, nine years after she was killed, that Li was arrested. His two-day trial started in September of that year.
The RCMP eventually shared evidence with Chinese prosecutors, reportedly under the agreement that Li would not face the death penalty if convicted.
At one point Zhang Han, who lived in a Burnaby apartment with Li and Zhao and is Li’s childhood friend, gave a statement to the RCMP alleging Li told him he had murdered Zhao and asked for help disposing of her body, which he provided.
However, a B.C. court in 2004 ruled the RCMP had coerced Zhang Han into confessing and said he hadn’t been given proper access to a lawyer. There are reports Zhang Han also confessed to his role upon returning to China, but Li’s lawyers have maintained police tortured him into providing the damning testimony.