China seeking New Zealand help in its "fox hunt" for corrupt officials who have fled overseas could be discussed today by John Key and President Xi Jinping.

China has recently looked to other nations for aid in tracking down economic fugitives that had absconded from the Asian superpower after launching what it called operation "Fox Hunt" in July.

China state news agency Xinhua said this month the programme had nabbed 288 suspects.

The Chinese Government has estimated that 16,000 to 18,000 corrupt officials and employees of state-owned enterprises have fled with pilfered assets of more than 800 billion yuan (NZ$166 billion) since the mid-1990s.


The "Fox Hunt" is part of President Xi's major crackdown on corruption and when asked if the topic would be on the agenda during the Chinese premier's visit, a spokeswoman for Key replied:

"A wide range of topics will be discussed during President Xi's visit. Legal cooperation may be one of these."

Then-Justice Minister Judith Collins said last December that China had a particular interest in economic fugitives who may be residing in New Zealand.

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Local authorities had been assisting their Chinese counterparts in this area, she said.

Collins' successor Amy Adams told the Herald today that this remained the case.

"New Zealand has been providing assistance to China in the prosecution of corruption matters since our bilateral mutual assistance treaty came into effect in 2006. We'll continue to assist the Chinese Government where necessary in accordance with the treaty and our laws," Adams said.

"In addition, the Law Commission is currently reviewing New Zealand's mutual assistance and extradition laws. It's important we ensure not only that the law in this area is efficient, effective, and not overly complex or unnecessarily expensive, but that it also provides important checks and balances to protect those being investigated or prosecuted," she said.

Western unease about China's use of the death penalty in corruption cases and fairness its justice system has been cited as a barrier in it receiving full international co-operation as it chases down economic fugitives.

Ahead of this month's APEC summit, China initiated a proposal for an anti-corruption network - which the United States backed.

"We are setting up what is called an anti-corruption and transparency network," APEC's Secretariat executive director Alan Bollard said at the time.

"This group will try and bring together the actual operational people who will share information on particular cases, share information about how to get convictions and prosecutions and, if necessary, assets back as well," said Bollard, who is the New Zealand Reserve Bank's former governor.

Crown Law has two requests on record from China asking for the restraint or seizure of assets.

One of these, received in 2011, was associated with an official believed to have enriched themselves through bribery or corruption.

- Additional reporting: Associated Press