Hong Kong moves forward with extradition bill, ignores a million protestors
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive said the bill was “necessary and sensible”. Despite protests by over a million people, the bill will be up for debate on Wednesday for a second reading.
One of every seven people in Hong Kong rallied in the city’s streets on June 9 to oppose an extradition bill that would allow China to demand the extradition of fugitives from the city. This accounts for over a million people of the city’s seven million population.
The protests were organised by a coalition of pro-democracy groups -- the Civil Human Rights Front -- making this one of the largest public demonstrations in Hong Kong’s history.
The controversial amendment
Over the past several months, the Hong Kong government has campaigned for an extradition law that would allow the city to extradite wanted suspects to China.
The Security Bureau described the existing procedure as “operationally impracticable” because the legislature’s dealings are public, and could alert fugitives, providing them with the option to flee.
In February, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau wrote, “The two existing ordinances are not applicable for extradition and mutual legal aid requests between Hong Kong and other parts of the People’s Republic of China, and therefore requests arising from the Taiwan homicide case cannot be handled, highlighting the inadequacy and shortcomings of the current regime.”
The government proposed to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (FOO) and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (MLAO) that would allow the government to handle extradition requests on a “one-off case-based approach”.
Chief Executive, Carrie Lam | Source: Getty Images
This means that the government’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam must have the authority to issue a certificate after an extradition request. Based on this, local courts will decide if a provisional arrest warrant must be issued. This entire procedure would remain under wraps.
China has been unable to recover suspects from Hong Kong since it resumed sovereignty over the territory in 1997. Now, the country has come out in favour of the amendment. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China is in support of the decision made by Hong Kong.
But why is there public turmoil? There is a lack of trust in China’s judiciary. Opponents believe that suspects are in a vulnerable position due to unfair trial procedures in mainland China. They also see this change as a sign of China’s control over Hong Kong’s legal independence.
Many protesters have demanded the resignation of Carrie Lam. Meanwhile, she defended the legislation on the basis that it protected human rights. In a 45-minute press briefing on June 10, she said this amendment was necessary to ensure criminals don’t escape justice. She added that Beijing didn’t force her to push for the law.
The bill will be up for debate on Wednesday for a second reading. Protests are expected to escalate in the days ahead in Hong Kong.