On April 28, tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets to protest against the proposed extradition law changes.
Although there are huge discrepancies between the turnout figures released by the Civil Human Rights Front and the police, i.e., 130,000 vis-à-vis 22,800, one thing is for certain: there is strong opposition in the community against the proposed legislative initiative which the government cannot afford to ignore.
The biggest concern among the protesters is that once the changes to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance are passed by Legislative Council, anyone in the city could face the prospect of getting extradited to the mainland to stand trial there.
And since the mainland judicial system is entirely different from that of Hong Kong, which is a common law system, they are worried that those involved in the case may be denied fair trial by mainland courts.
Since the government’s proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance were triggered by a murder said to have been committed by Hongkonger Chan Tong-kai in Taiwan, we believe the administration should keep things simple.
At this stage, the government should seek viable legal grounds for extraditing Chan to Taiwan first, while deferring discussions about surrendering fugitive offenders to other jurisdictions, including the mainland, until a later date.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor remarked last Monday following Chan’s sentencing for money laundering charges that there is an urgency to pass laws that allow the HKSAR to surrender Chan to Taiwan.
That’s because Chan may get released from jail in October this year.
Lam hopes that the bill could be passed before Legco’s summer recess.
She made it very clear last Tuesday that the administration has taken quite a bit of time to come up with the legislative proposals.
“We will listen very attentively to what the members have to say on the content of the bill, and if there are good suggestions, practical proposals that could allay the fears and the anxiety of some members of the public, but at the same time achieve the two objectives of this legislative exercise, then we will certainly follow up on that score,” she said.
We agree that the clock may be ticking as the chief executive has said, but only on Chan’s suspected murder case, while we just can’t see any element of urgency for changing our city’s extradition laws that cover other jurisdictions at this point.
If the administration still insists on resolving the extradition issue with all other jurisdictions, including the mainland, in one go, chances are, the raging controversies over the proposed law changes may just continue to snowball, and there is absolutely no way the Security Bureau can force a public consensus over this highly contentious issue by October.
Our suggestion is indeed very simple: the only thing the government should do right now is to find out how to cooperate with the Taiwanese authorities on how to surrender Chan, while leaving the issue of extraditing fugitives to other jurisdictions untouched for now.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 30
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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