BEIJING, Aug 11 (Reuters) - More than 150 economic fugitives, many of whom are corrupt officials or suspected of graft in China, remain at large in the United States, state media said on Monday, citing a senior official from the ministry of public security.
In a bid to hunt for more Chinese fugitives, China's Ministry of Public Security is trying to set up an annual high-level meeting with U.S. judicial authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, the China Daily newspaper said, citing Wang Gang, a senior official from the public security ministry's International Cooperation Bureau.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made fighting pervasive graft a central theme since becoming president last year and has warned, like others before him, that corruption threatens the party's survival.
China has long grappled with the problem of so-called "naked officials", the term for government workers whose husbands, wives or children are all overseas, have used their foreign family connections to illegally move assets or avoid probes.
The estimated number of mainland officials and their family members shifting assets offshore varies among academics, with some putting it at more than 1 million in the past five years.
The United States "has become the top destination for Chinese fugitives fleeing the law", the paper cited Liao Jinrong, director general of the International Cooperation Bureau under the Ministry of Public Security as saying.
But only two people have been brought home to China to stand trial in the past decade, the China Daily said, citing figures from the public security ministry.
"We face practical difficulties in getting fugitives who fled to the United States back to face trial due to the lack of an extradition treaty and the complex and lengthy procedures," the newspaper cited Liao as saying.
Another challenge that China faces in apprehending fugitives is that the U.S. judicial authorities "misunderstand the Chinese judicial system and procedures", the newspaper said, citing experts.
"They always think Chinese judicial organs violate suspects' human rights," said Wang.
In March, China said it would step up its hunt for corrupt officials who have fled abroad, confiscate illegal assets of overseas fugitives and stop suspect offenders leaving the country, as it intensifies the fight against graft. (Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry)