The Legislative Council’s Panel on Security is set to hold on Friday a special meeting wherein it will take up the matter of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. The gathering has been convened as the panel seeks to “make up for” the failure of the bills committee to discuss the issue.
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu has been spearheading the highly contentious legislative initiative for several months.
Gary Chan Hak-kan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), who chairs the Legco security panel, had planned to invite Lee to meeting, media reports have said.
Chan issued an advance notice that there will be staff from the Department of Justice (DoJ) present at the May 31 meeting.
The notice, meanwhile, said that it is up to the government to decide whether the justice secretary herself will be coming to Legco or not.
After this column was published, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Wednesday that Chan has been informed that the justice chief, Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, would not be attending the special meeting on Friday.
On Tuesday, Chan notified members of the security panel that a regular June 4 meeting will also discuss the bill. He also wrote that members would be consulted in relation to a proposed move to have seven more sessions of the special meeting, a plan that would mean gatherings on June 1, 3 and 7 and yield a total of 14 additional special meeting hours.
According to sources, some pro-establishment lawmakers are a bit miffed that Cheng hasn’t been firing on all cylinders in the extradition bill battle, accusing her of not doing enough to solicit support for the law revision and securing its passage through Legco.
Sections within the government are also said to be of the opinion that the justice chief should be more pro-active in responding to public and media inquiries about the extradition law changes.
Amid mounting pressure and expectations on her, it is inevitable that Cheng will have to explain the amendment bill more to the public.
After all, although the Security Secretary Lee and Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung have been working alongside each other at full throttle in pushing the bill, they aren’t legal experts. The two officials were often put in a huge disadvantage when debating with lawyers and, in particular, found wanting when it came to refuting the criticism made by the Hong Kong Bar Association against the proposed law changes.
In other news, the administration has announced that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has decided to cancel a trip to Europe that had been scheduled for late June.
Government sources stressed that the cancellation of the trip has nothing to do Germany’s recent move to grant refugee protection to two Hong Kong activists, Ray Wong Toi-yeung and Alan Li Tung-sing, who fled the city to escape court trials in relation to 2016 Mong Kok protests.
Rather, sources said, the chief executive decided to postpone the trip to European countries including Germany because she wanted to oversee the extradition bill campaign in its entirety. The government faces a key battle on June 12 when the bill would come up before Legco for scrutiny.
Also, if anything goes wrong during the resumption of second reading of the bill, for example, a mass protest being triggered, it would be hard for the chief executive to handle it personally and immediately if she was on an overseas visit. Hence, her decision to call off the trip for now, with fresh plans likely to be drawn up only after the new law is passed in the legislature, the sources say.
This is an updated version of an article that appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 28
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]