Go for the easy ones first in amending extradition law

March 15, 2019 12:45
Hong Kong manufacturers are concerned that the legal liability to which they are subjected in the mainland as a result of their business activities could be extended across the border once the amendments are passed. Photo: HKEJ

The government's proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance have raised grave concern among Hong Kong entrepreneurs who run manufacturing plants in the mainland.

Members of the two leading industrial chambers in the city – the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI) and the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong (CMAHK) – have also voiced their concerns over the proposed amendments.

Dennis Ng Wang-pun, president of the CMAHK, said the legislative initiative could threaten the interests and security of Hong Kong manufacturers.

As we all know, the local industrial sector has always been patriotic and at the forefront of supporting our country’s policies and development.

However, many of our industrialists also have first-hand experience and knowledge about the huge gaps in judicial and law enforcement practices among different regions in the mainland.

In fact, my fellow industrialists’ objection to the amendments proposed by the Security Bureau is based on either their own experience or that of their fellows in the sector of having fallen into legal traps in the mainland in the past.

That explains why although many of them fully understand the intent of the legislative initiative, they don’t totally agree with the contents of the amendment bill out of their deep concern about the potential risks.

What bothers local industrialists most is that many of the 46 descriptions of criminal offenses covered by the new legislation are related to commercial disputes or litigation.

And one of their biggest worries is that the legal liability to which they are subjected in the mainland as a result of their business activities could be extended across the border once the amendments are passed.

Members of the industrial sector are much in favor of amending our extradition laws so that fugitives who have been suspected of murder, arson, wounding and rape in the mainland would be surrendered.

However, as far as other “white-collar crimes” on the government’s list are concerned, those in the industrial sector have deep reservations about making them extraditable as well.

A great majority of our industrialists are law-abiding and cautious. They strive hard to avoid violating laws or committing crime, but despite such an attitude, there is no assurance that they would not violate the law given the very broad scope of the Chinese law.

For example, changing one’s Hong Kong dollars into renminbi at the Lo Wu MTR Station, something that many local industrialists would often do when they travel across the border, already constitutes a violation of the mainland law.

Since, technically speaking, it would be impossible for the SAR administration to require the central government to exempt Hong Kong citizens from certain punishable acts under the existing mainland law, the SAR government should take the initiative and seriously consider the scope of the proposed amendments, which is too broad, so that they would only deal with serious crimes such as murder and arson.

In the meantime, as many Hong Kong industrialists are considering downsizing their factories or even shutting them down in the face of the deteriorating economic environment, one can expect a continued rise in the number of lawsuits over insolvency or compensation claims in mainland courts against Hong Kong business owners.

That being said, the last thing they want is probably getting arrested on Hong Kong soil and extradited back to the mainland on the charge of “running away with stolen money”.

Our society has reached a consensus on the matter of surrendering fugitives accused of crimes such as murder and arson back to the mainland.

As such, what the government can do is to adopt a “go for the easy ones first and the hard ones later” approach to amending the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.

Let's stop wasting time on provoking further and unnecessary controversies over this issue.

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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Chairman, The Federation of Hong Kong Footwear Limited