Hong Kong Extradition Law
Hong Kong is at a political turmoil over the proposed extradition law. More than a million people in Hong Kong marched against a controversial extradition bill which they fear will erode freedom in the semi-autonomous territory.
Hong Kong was a British territory. It was handed over to China in 1997 under the concept of ‘one country, two systems, which accorded political and legal autonomy to the city.
The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill proposed by the Hing Kong regime has become the centre of controversy.
The extradition arrangements in Hong Kong were laid out in the Foreign Offenders Ordinance negotiated in 1997 when the UK returned the territory to China. Taiwan, Macau and the mainland were not included in that agreement.
The Bar Association argues that the omission was intentional because of the fundamentally different criminal justice system operating in the mainland and concerns over the mainland s track record on the protection of fundamental rights.
The political executives of Hong Kong feel that legal loophole’ was preventing the extradition of fugitives.
The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill provide for the sending of suspected offenders to places with which the territory has no formal extradition agreement on a case-by-case or one-off basis. The chief executive would have the authority to decide any request.
Hong Kong’s courts would have the opportunity to review the decision of the chief executive. But the court s would not be allowed to inquire into the “quality of justice” the accused would receive or whether they were guilty of the alleged offence.
Why the People are Opposing?
The amendment bill doesn t provide any role to 70-member assembly or Legco in the process. The power to decide on extradition has been vested with the chief executive who is not elected but chosen by an election committee accountable to China.
Even though the Courts are allowed to review the decision it is said that courts will have very little power to reject any extradition request since it will not be a formal prosecution which examines the evidence presented by the other side.
So people fear that China could manipulate the process to prosecute someone – a human rights defender or activist.
The administration has also proposed amendments to the police and officials of mainland China are not allowed to operate in Hong Kong. The provision of mutual legal assistance would allow outside investigators to request assistance from Hong Kong for criminal cases including search and seizure, and confiscation and restraint orders. It is feared that it may provide backdoor entry for Chinese officials.