Govt faces uphill battle on extradition law amendment

March 14, 2019 13:09
The Hong Kong government has a fight on its hands as it seeks to press ahead with amendments to the extradition law, observers say. Photo: HKEJ

During the annual plenary meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Hong Kong delegates representing the business sector had voiced concerns over the government’s proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.

As far as Beijing’s take on the issue is concerned, there are conflicting opinions.

On one hand, Maria Tam Wai-chu, vice-chairperson of the Basic Law Committee, said Beijing didn’t require the Hong Kong administration to amend its extradition laws.

Her view was echoed by some in the business sector, thereby giving rise to speculation that the proposed legal amendments might only be a unilateral initiative by the Hong Kong government.

However, an administration figure has pointed out that the amendment of the extradition laws, which was triggered by a suspected murder committed by a Hong Kong man in Taiwan, touches on the sensitive issue of cross-strait relations, hence it would be wrong to assume that the Hong Kong government would have proposed it without communicating with Beijing beforehand.

According to another government source, Beijing didn’t say “no” to the legislative initiative.

Nevertheless, judging from the current situation, the government will probably be fighting an uphill battle trying to press ahead with the legal amendments, which are opposed by the pan-democrats, the legal sector, some professional sectors, the business community as well as foreign chambers of commerce in the city.

Tam Yiu-chung, former lawmaker and an incumbent member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), had proposed earlier that once the surrender of fugitive offenders with the one-off case-based approach materializes, only the relevant central authority can seek extradition of any individual from Hong Kong, so as to allay concerns.

His suggestion was made amid public concerns about the possibility of provincial and municipal authorities requesting the extradition of purported criminals from across the border in the future.

It is understood that Tam’s suggestion is the direction which the new extradition program in the pipeline is going to follow.

Nonetheless, before Tam’s recommended approach would materialize, the first thing the Hong Kong government needs to do at this point is to convince different sectors of society, particularly the business community, to endorse the proposed amendment.

Sources say the Security Bureau is now continuing to prepare to meet with lawmakers over the issue, and that it intends to further explain the matter in detail to both local and foreign business chambers soon.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 13

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.