The government will continue to push extradition law changes, but will put in more efforts to strengthen safeguards and step up communications to allay the public’s concerns, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Monday.
At a press conference a day after hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest the extradition bill, Lam, accompanied by Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, said she “heard from the political parties who have issued statements after the march” even as they reaffirmed their “support for the [government's] action.”
Lam told reporters she noticed that there were many participants in Sunday’s march who expressed worries, concerns and anxieties about the government’s Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.
The administration’s responsibility is to accommodate different opinions and strike a balance, Lam said, arguing that recent tweaks to the proposals show that the government had been listening to the people.
To further allay public concerns, the government, after hearing opinions from some political parties, has decided to keep pushing the bill by working on four aspects, including more communication and explanation work, throughout the Legislative Council scrutiny process and possibly even after the enactment of the bill, with a focus on the additional safeguards that were introduced on May 30, Lam said.
Second, all additional safeguards proposed will have a legal binding effect on the government as they will be put into a very solemn policy statement to be delivered by the Secretary for Security when the bill resumes its second reading in the Legco on June 12, RTHK quoted the chief executive as saying..
Third, the government will provide regular reports to the Legco about the implementation of the case-by-case surrender arrangement if the bill is passed, with the report to cover the jurisdictions involved, the nature of the cases, and whether human rights and procedural safeguards are being fully implemented.
Fourth, the government aims to enter into long-term agreements on the surrender of fugitive offenders with as many jurisdictions as possible in the long run, including negotiations with mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.
Lam said she will enhance the staff resources in the Security Bureau and the Department of Justice to enable them to catch up on the work and to start the negotiations on these long-term agreements.
The chief executive reiterated that the extradition law is being revised only for the purpose of bettering Hong Kong’s legal system and making sure that justice can be served so that the city will not be a place used by fugitives to avoid criminal responsibilities.
Lam did not specifically mention the Taiwan murder case involving a Hong Kong man who admitted killing his girlfriend during a trip to the island last year before fleeing back home to Hong Kong.
During the press conference, the chief executive was asked at least three times whether she will consider stepping down, to which she indicated that she would not do so.
Lam, who had promised during her election campaign in 2017 that she will resign if the mainstream opinion among Hongkongers is that she was failing to perform her duties as chief executive, said she has “spent every moment of [her] time to work for the benefit of Hong Kong” in “every aspect”, and that she “will continue to do [so] with [her] utmost ability and address the issues and concerns of Hong Kong people”.
“Especially at a time when our economy is going to undergo some very severe challenges because of the external uncertainties, I think it’s all the more important for us to have a stable team to rise to the challenges and resolve many of the difficult areas that we are going to face,” she said.
Commenting on the four aspects the government will focus on in relation to the extradition bill, Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer at Hong Kong University’s law department, pointed out that they are meaningless and misleading to the public as they will still be unable to solve the core problems of the bill.
Cheung reiterated that what the government should do is to suspend amendments to the extradition law for the time being and focus on solving the Taiwan murder case first.
In related news, 24 lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp issued a joint statement on Monday, slamming Lam for refusing to heed the calls of the Sunday demonstrators and walk back the fugitive bill.
They demanded that Lam retract the bill immediately or step down from her post.
Civil Human Rights Front, organizer of Sunday’s massive demonstration, said it will organize a rally outside the Legco complex when the House discusses the bill, RTHK reported.
In other news, Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen told the media on Monday that he had approved 153 of 258 committee stage amendments filed by 22 lawmakers in relation to the extradition bill.
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