As activists and protesters continue to demand complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, the government is sticking to the stand that suspending the bill could effectively amount to scrapping it.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah told reporters after attending a Legislative Council Panel meeting on Monday that the administration has already stopped the legislative process that was lying before the Legislative Council in relation to the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.
“There is no specific timetable. There is no chance that the government will out of the blue suddenly reactivate the whole process, and we all know that next year, by July, the term of the Legislative Council is coming to an end,” Cheng said.
“If for whatever reason the bill lapses,” the government is willing to accept such situation, said Cheng, who offered an apology in person in front of media last Saturday for the disturbances caused by the bill.
Cheng called on people not to “dwell on” the wording — suspension or withdrawal — regarding the bill, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
As for the activists’ demand that the government must drop charges against all those arrested over the June 12 clashes in Admiralty, Cheng said the Department of Justice will make independent decisions on how to deal with the arrested based on the law, evidence and the Prosecution Code.
“There is no presumption that people should make as to whether any prosecution will or will not be done, because when the Department of Justice decides whether or not to prosecute, to make the prosecutorial decisions, we look at the relevant law, admissible evidence, the Prosecution Code, and decide whether a reasonable prospect of conviction could be reached,” she said.
Also, the department will consider actions in the public interest, as to whether an individual in a particular case should be prosecuted or not, the justice chief said.
Earlier at the meeting held by the Legco’s Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services on Monday, Cheng was grilled by a number of lawmakers over the fact that the contents of the fugitive bill had not been studied by the Law Reform Commission before the government tabled it.
In response, Cheng said that because the proposed amendments only focused on three aspects, it was not necessarily suitable for the commission to conduct a study.
The government “has literally stopped the legislative process” with no “specific timetable” set, and hence it will not pass the bill to the commission now to let it study it, she added.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who represents the legal sector, moved a motion at the meeting asking the commission to review the existing Public Order Ordinance. It was later passed as most pro-establishment members of the panel were absent.
In related news, former secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said on Monday that since the government has given its responses and apologized to the people of Hong Kong, it’s time for the city to look ahead.
Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan noted that as there is practically no difference between suspension and withdrawal of the law amendments, the government can announce withdrawal of the extradition bill, which can deprive the activists their excuse to continue the protest actions.
On Monday, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, commended the decision of the Hong Kong government to delay the passage of the extradition bill in response to “the massive display of civic activism by a large proportion of the population”.
Speaking at the opening of a three-session meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet encouraged Hong Kong authorities “to consult broadly before passing or amending” the extradition bill or any other legislation in the future.
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