There is no doubt that all pro-establishment lawmakers in Hong Kong will back the government’s proposal to amend the territory’s extradition laws, New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said on Sunday, pointing out that Beijing’s Liaison Office has urged passage of the bill.
Ip, who is a member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, said in a TV interview that part of the reason why she was drawing the conclusion was because James Tien Pei-chun, honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, had also come to expect such an outcome on the vote on the fugitives law.
Tien, known for forthright views, had previously criticized the mainland’s legal system, saying people and the business sector in Hong Kong didn’t have much faith in the way the mainland conducts legal proceedings. In 2003, Tien played a role in then Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s decision to drop controversial national security legislation.
The Liaison Office on Friday held a meeting with Hong Kong delegates of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, and local deputies of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s legislature.
According to some of the attendees, the office urged the delegates during the meeting to fully support the government in its bid to revise the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, deliberations on which have been stuck in the Legislative Council due to strong opposition from the pan-democratic camp.
Tien told media on Saturday that he believes business representatives in Legco would fall back in line and vote to support the changes following the push by Beijing, although he hoped he was wrong.
In the Sunday interview, Ip said she believes that as the Liaison Office has clearly expressed its stance and asked for full support from pro-establishment lawmakers, the camp will facilitate passage of the bill.
In other comments, Ip pointed out that Hong Kong is a free, pluralistic and open society and therefore every major issue in the city inevitably invites different opinions.
The only way to ease the public’s concern over the law changes is to pass it as soon as possible so that people will get to realize that their worries had been misplaced, she said.
That said, Ip criticized the government for having underestimated the disputes over the bill and conducting consultations too hastily, calling on it to make full preparations next time if it wants to push for legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which deals with national security issues.
Ip added that it would be dangerous for the government to use the number of street protesters as a guide for its decision-making process.
In a post on his official blog on Sunday, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po wrote that the bill is aimed to make Hong Kong safer by preventing fugitives from hiding in the city.
People have been questioning the proposed changes because they lack full understanding or have some misunderstanding, he said.
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king, who chairs the House Committee, told media that taking the proposed amendments straight to the full council as a way to end the current impasse between the two rival camps in the Legco is an option.
While the bill makes progress, lawmakers can still request some revision in the contents, she said.
According to Lee, she has asked members of the House Committee to submit their opinions by 5pm Tuesday on how the bills committee should proceed. If they fail to reach a consensus, voting is likely, she said.
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho warned that if the government insists on taking the bill the full council, it will have to face the consequences of disregarding both public opinion and interests of the business sector.
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