A Legislative Council bills committee that is overseeing the tabling of a controversial government proposal to amend the extradition laws failed to elect a chairman at its first meeting on Wednesday, as pro-establishment and pan-democrat lawmakers argued over procedural and other issues.
Soon after the meeting of the Bills Committee on Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 began at 8:45 am, pan-democratic lawmakers threw questions pertaining to a point of order.
Among the issues, Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of the pan-democrats’ meeting group of lawmakers, questioned why the meeting was arranged in such haste, demanding a clarification from the Legco Secretariat.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who presided over the meeting, then invited participants to express their opinions on whether he has the power to handle Mo’s request,
Such move drew attacks from lawmakers form the pro-establishment camp, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Aron Kwok Wai-keung from the Federation of Trade Unions told To “not to behave like trash”, but instead act with dignity behoving a senior lawmaker.
Deeming Kwok’s remarks offensive, To asked Kwok twice to retract them but Kwok refused. To then demanded that Kwok leave the meeting, which in turn gave rise to more acrimony in the Legco chamber.
After about two hours of bickering, To decided to put off the meeting, saying there is not insufficient time to handle the remaining agendas of the meeting. Thus, the proceedings were adjourned.
The Legco secretariat said the most senior lawmaker should preside over the first meeting of the bills committee to elect the chairman of the committee, and that To, being the most senior legislator among the participants, should preside the meeting and that he can also decide whether to extend or reschedule it.
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu on Wednesday told media after the meeting that he is “extremely disappointed with lawmakers’ delaying tactics at the first meeting of the bills committee that is to vet planned changes to extradition laws”, RTHK reports.
It is regrettable that the two-hour meeting ended without lawmakers even managing to elect a chairman for the panel, Lee said, according to the public broadcaster.
Reiterating that it is urgent that the proposed amendments be passed, the security chief questioned the wisdom of a suggestion put forward by the democrats for addition of a “sunset clause” in relation to the extradition law amendment.
Adding such clause would make the handling of extradition cases inefficient, Lee said, warning of a situation where authorities would need to make another legislation process necessary whenever a case comes up.
To, meanwhile, told reporters after the meeting that he conducted the event, where he handled lawmakers’ questions and issues on a point of order, strictly according to the Legco rules.
The Security Bureau had earlier proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance to plug loopholes.
The proposed revision can enable the one-off case-based approach to be applied to jurisdictions without long-term surrender arrangements with Hong Kong.
The initiative to amend the extradition law came after a Hong Kong resident, Chan Tong-kai, was suspected of murdering his girlfriend, also a Hongkonger, in Taiwan, and returning to the city.
Taiwan authorities had asked Hong Kong to send Chan back to Taiwan to stand trial but the request could not be processed due to the limitations in Hong Kong’s existing laws related to surrender of fugitive offenders.
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