A Lulu of a case | Canadian icewine maker in hot water in China

By Jim Boyce | Media in China and Canada report that Canadian John Chang, founder of Lulu Island Winery in British Columbia, has been detained by Customs authorities in China. From Ian Young of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post:

A report in the state-owned Legal Daily, which reports on judicial matters and operates under China’s Ministry of Justice, said on Wednesday that a Canadian winery owner named “Zhang” had been arrested for smuggling wine worth 300 million yuan (C$59 million) into China, including 200 million yuan worth of ice wine.

Neither the winery nor its owner are fully identified by name in the report, which cited an announcement by Shanghai Customs officials in the wake of a series of raids.

However, photographs of the raids show officers inspecting crates of wine carrying the Lulu Island Winery name and logo…

The Legal Daily report and photos, which were subsequently carried by other state and private media, said “Zhang” was among four people charged, and he had already appeared in court and confessed.

The announcement said anti-smuggling raids had been carried out in March in Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Xiamen, resulting in 18 arrests and the filing of four criminal cases.

The Richmond News quoted a statement from Lulu Island denying the allegations and saying both Chang and the winery are cooperating with the authorities: “Lulu Island believes all of its wine imports to China have been done in full compliance with all application laws, rules and regulations.”

Young reports the Legal Daily as saying Chang under-reported the value of wine bought by visitors from continental China and later shipped to them.

According to the Vancouver Sun, Lulu Island, previously Blossom Winery, was a frequent destination for visitors: “Lulu Island Winery is… popular with Asian visitors, welcoming about 3,000 busloads annually, and having hosted China House during the 2010 Winter Olympics.”

Young, who writes the “Hongcouver” column for SCMP, notes that icewine is among the most popular gifts Chinese visitors bring back from Canada:

“The sweet, syrupy wine, which can only be produced after grapes freeze on the vines and is therefore limited in production volume by seasonal vagaries, has exploded in popularity among Chinese drinkers. Along with maple syrup and smoked salmon, ice wine has become the favoured Canadian souvenir gift among Chinese and other Asian visitors,” he writes.

While Lulu Island is best-known for icewines, it also produces still red and white wines as well as other fruit wines.

john chang lulu island screenshot

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