Govt mulls steps to ensure fair trials for transferred fugitives

May 27, 2019 16:37
The government will consider adding more human rights protection in dealing with extradition cases under a revised law, Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said in a TV interview aired on Sunday. Photo: TVB News/screenshot

Hong Kong will look at the possibility of having some measures in place to ensure fair treatment of criminal suspects handed over to other jurisdictions for trials, a minister said on Sunday, as the administration continued its efforts to allay concerns over planned changes to the extradition law.

Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said in an interview with TVB News that the government will consider steps that could offer some protection to transferred fugitives, in terms of the suspects getting fair trials and treated in accordance with human rights principles.

Authorities could seek an undertaking that a jurisdiction would guarantee fair trial for a transferred fugitive, Cheng said, adding that the government may also try to introduce a mechanism whereby there will be observers who will supervise and monitor the cases of extradited suspects.

In the pre-recorded interview aired on Sunday, two days after the Legislative Council’s House Committee decided through a vote to take the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 straight to the full council on June 12, Cheng sought to dismiss fears over the extradition law amendments as misplaced. 

Responding to a view on the need for safeguards to ensure the protection of rights of people extradited to other jurisdictions, Cheng said the fugitives bill takes such considerations into account.

Hong Kong authorities, depending on the situation, would consider adding more human rights protection, including a requirement on jurisdictions to give commitments for fair trials as well as agree to independent observers to monitor the cases, she said.

The requirements may not be laid down in the extradition bill itself, but authorities will make arrangements on a case-by-case basis whenever they are deemed necessary, Cheng suggested.

Introduction of observers would be considered for the purpose of following up on human rights after extradition takes place, Cheng said, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The justice chief did not elaborate when asked how Hong Kong could intervene when it receives a report from an observer, merely saying that the observer must use the local judicial system of that place to take immediate judicial action, and that the Hong Kong authorities could also negotiate with the relevant government.

In related news, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung wrote in his weekly blog on Sunday that he met with representatives from foreign chambers of commerce and explained to them issues related to the extradition bill.

According to the official, some of the meeting attendees agreed with the government's arguments and expressed support for the amendment after they gained better understanding of the facts.

Chueng, when asked by media later that day, declined to reveal the names of the chambers that agreed to support the amendment. 

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan also told reporters that the law changes are necessary and his bureau will do its best to explain the matter to industry and professional groups when it gets the chance.

Tam Yiu-chung, the sole Hong Kong member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, told a radio program on Sunday that Beijing explicitly supports the proposed law revision.

Central authorities decided to make their stance clear as some foreign governments had been trying to pressure Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in relation to the law changes, he said.

All countries have similar extradition agreements, so it's hard to understand why they are opposing Hong Kong's own initiative, Tam added.

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