This article summarises key insights from the reports of Hong Kong Free Press, Hong Kong Bar Association, The New York Times, and Bloomberg on the issue of Extradition law in Hong Kong.
Co-written with Yu Theodora, an investigative journalist from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
What does “extradition” means?
The action of transferring of a person accused or convicted of a crime from a jurisdiction to another.
What are the proposed changes in Hong Kong’s Extradition Law?
The changes will allow authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau to transfer criminal suspects from Hong Kong over to their law enforcement.
Why is the change proposed?
A Hong Kong citizen, Chan Tong-kai, is accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan. He fled back to Hong Kong, and the local government could not transfer him back to Taiwan for trial because there were no extradition agreement between the cities. He was charged for money laundering and is currently in Hong Kong.
On June 9th, 1.03 million Hongkongers joined the rally against the bill amendment proposal. Extradition arrangements are common between regions or countries with close ties, so it is hardly surprising that many foreigners are confused by the backlash in Hong Kong on the proposed change in policy. Here are the misconceptions:
Misconception 1. The bill is necessary to transfer Chan to Taiwan and be trialed for murder charges.
Why it’s wrong?
- There are other ways to extradite the alleged criminal that do not involve an amendment. In fact, Taiwan has requested three times for a meeting to discuss a one-off arrangement to extradite Chan, but there were no replies from the Hong Kong government.
- As the passing of the bill amendment would impose a threat to Taiwaneses to be extradited to mainland China, the Taiwanese authority stated that Taiwan would not take Chan even if the bill amendment is passed.
Misconception 2. The proposed changes would fix a loophole in the extradition bill and make Hong Kong a safer place by sending alleged criminals to the other jurisdictions to stand trial.
Why it’s wrong?
- The exclusion of mainland China from the list of recognized jurisdictions under the current extradition bill is an intentional move to protect the integrity of Hong Kong’s common law system from China’s constitutional law system.
- In view of Mainland China’s various human rights violations, the bill put potential extraditee at risk of torture and inhumane treatment.
Example: On 11th June, A New Zealand court on blocked the extradition of a murder suspect to China due to concerns over whether the man can receive a fair trial and humane treatment.
Misconception 3. Since criminals who committed offences of political nature would not be extradited, the Chinese government could not abuse the bill for their propaganda.
Why it’s wrong?
- Mainland China has a track record of illegally transferring suspect cross border. There is a reasonable doubt that the Chinese government would not act in accordance with the extradition bill.
Example: Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong is known for selling sensitive political books which are banned in China. The storeowner Lam Wing-kee and his four staffers went missing in 2015. They were later found to be detained by authorities in mainland China. One of them was last seen in Hong Kong and found in Shenzhen without proper documents to cross the borders.
- The power dynamics of extradition arrangement between Hong Kong and China is very different from other countries. Hong Kong — being the Special Administrative Region of China — might not be able to turn down China’s extradition requests.
- Currently, extradition arrangement requires approval from both the legislature and the Chief Executive (CE); but approval is only required from the CE for the proposed amended bill. Note that CEs in Hong Kong are appointed by the Chinese government, so they may act in the Party’s interest accordingly.