In a sign that she is willing to compromise on the controversial fugitives bill, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said her administration is considering suggestions from various parties to further amend the legislative proposal and will give an overall response as soon as possible.
Speaking to media before attending a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam said the Legislative Council’s Panel on Security can then hold further discussions based on the response at a special meeting on Friday.
Lam’s remarks came a day after the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) met with Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu to discuss the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, which the government decided to take straight to Legco as a whole on June 12, bypassing a bills committee that was supposed to scrutinize it first.
Seeking more safeguards in the bill, the HKGCC made three suggestions: the government should raise the threshold to cover only extraditable offenses punishable with a jail sentence of seven or more years; requests for extradition to the mainland would only be considered if they came from the central government but not provincial governments; and Hong Kong’s executive authority and the courts have to take humanitarian and human rights factors into consideration when processing extradition applications.
Lam said the government will consider suggestions made not only by the HKGCC but by other groups as well.
Any amendments to the already tabled bill will have to be submitted to Legco by June 1, Lam stressed, noting that the government will do things according to the legislative body’s established procedures.
As for the pan-democrats’ invitation for her to join a televised debate on the fugitives bill, Lam said the law revision is a policy and legal issue, and therefore Legco is the most suitable venue to discuss it.
Asked about the concerns raised by some consulates in Hong Kong over the bill, she said there might have been some kind of misunderstanding on their part and such a situation is regrettable.
While saying that she should have offered explanations to them earlier, Lam described the consulates’ concerns as an “over-worry”.
The chief executive stressed that her administration, including its offices outside Hong Kong, has been doing its best to make the public understand the rationales behind the bill every day, and as such, she believes the law revision has to be carried out and hopes the bill to gain extensive support in society, no matter how much political criticism she has to receive.
Lee told a TV interview on Tuesday that the government takes every opinion on the proposed law changes seriously. He was responding to a question regarding the proposal to raise the threshold for extraditable offenses to those punishable by a jail sentence of at least seven years.
The security chief said enabling Hongkongers to serve their jail time in Hong Kong after they are extradited to the mainland can be considered.
He said the existing legislation allows Hongkongers sentenced to jail terms in other jurisdictions to serve their sentences in the city, but this does not apply to the mainland.
As such, whether such a suggestion would work depends on how Hong Kong authorities would discuss with their mainland counterparts to come up with suitable solutions in this regard, Lee noted.
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