Canada Daughter of B.C. wine merchants facing Chinese trial makes plea to Trudeau

14:40  25 may  2017
14:40  25 may  2017 Source:   Vancouver Sun

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Chang is making a plea for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make her family’s case a priority. She’s nervous about how her parents’ trial will play out — Chinese authorities have said their conviction rate is 99.6 per cent — but she believes that with strong evidence to support their claims of

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052417-png0524Nimprisoned-0525_china_wine-W.jpg: Amy Chang at Lulu Island Winery in Richmond, B.C., May 24, 2017.<br /> © Arlen Redekop Amy Chang at Lulu Island Winery in Richmond, B.C., May 24, 2017.

On the eve of her parents’ trial in China, Amy Chang wants to know Canadian officials haven’t forgotten about them.

Last year on March 25, Chung-Nan (John) Chang, owner of Lulu Island Winery, was detained by Chinese customs officials on an accusation that he and his wife, Lan-Fen (Allison) Lu, had under-reported the value of 2,000 cases of wine they were bringing into the country.

For this allegation, both face 10 years to life imprisonment.

Chang, 62, has since languished in a detention facility on charges of “smuggling of common goods” while Lu, 61, has been stripped of her passport and barred from returning to their home in Canada after she was released from the facility in January.

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The couple’s closed trial is set for Friday at 9:30 a.m. in the Shanghai High People’s Court. It will begin around dinnertime Thursday in Richmond where their 23-year-old daughter, Amy Chang, now runs one of the family’s three Canadian wineries with her brother.

All the siblings want is for their ailing parents to come home, Chang said.

Chang’s mother is hesitant to speak about their well-being but it’s evident to Chang that their age and predicament have caused them mental and physical stress, she said.

“It’s been very difficult,” Chang said. “We just want to be together as a family again.”

Chang is making a plea for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make her family’s case a priority. If he accepts her request for a meeting next week when she visits Ottawa for a third time since her parent’s detainment, she will lay out the facts of their case and reiterate her belief that they should never have been arrested.

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“This is a trade issue,” Chang plans to tell Trudeau. “Canada and China are trying to discuss a free-trade agreement. How can you let this happen to Canadian citizens abroad?”

Canadian consular officials in China have been visiting Chang’s parents every three months while a federal case worker has met with her mom just once since the arrest, she said.

But because her family has been helping support Canada’s tourism, agriculture and wine industries since 2002, Chang feels the Canadian government could be doing more to help them reunite.

She believes their case is precedent-setting and could have broad implications for any Canadians planning future business overseas.

“What’s the purpose of having a Canadian passport if you can’t even be protected?” she said.

She’s nervous about how her parents’ trial will play out — Chinese authorities have said their conviction rate is 99.6 per cent — but she believes that with strong evidence to support their claims of innocence, as well as federal support, they could have a fighting chance.

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The winery contends that the allegations of under-reporting the value of the wine are false and the winery used professional import agencies licensed by China Customs.

Dan Brock, a Fasken Martineau partner who is advising Lulu Island Winery on its dealings with the Canadian government, said he’s been frustrated by the length of time it’s taken to convince senior officials here that the case isn’t a consular issue but one about trade.

Lately, however, it has felt like their views have been swayed, Brock said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that the Canadian government is really starting to understand the arguments that we have been making,” he said.

Federal records show that over the past year Brock has been lobbying multiple government bodies on behalf of Lulu Island Winery, including the Prime Minister’s Office, House of Commons, Senate of Canada, Global Affairs Canada and Justice Canada on “issues related to the calculation of customs valuations for wine being exported from Canada to China.”

Brock said it’s clear Amy Chang and her family have devoted themselves to building a strong Canadian business and bolstering trade with China. He said Chang is unlike any client he’s worked with since he was called to the bar in 2001.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as impressive as Amy,” he said. “(She is) young and self-possessed, and a real fighter for her parents and family business.”

The prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

neagland@postmedia.com

twitter.com/nickeagland

Daughter of detained Canadians pleads to PM .
Daughter of detained Canadians pleads to PMAmy Chang is in Ottawa this week pleading with federal politicians for help in getting her parents released from custody in Shanghai, where the two were arrested in March 2016 while visiting their business suppliers and agents.

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