HONG KONG – The Hong Kong government on Friday proposed an amendment to allow the extradition of fugitives to jurisdictions including mainland China and Taiwan. The proposal comes in the wake of a murder case in Taiwan in which the prime suspect could not be extradited from Hong Kong to face murder charges.
Secretary for Security John Lee said in the legislature that the Taiwan murder case highlights the need to plug a loophole in existing extradition laws.
Concerns were raised by lawmakers in the pro-democracy camp over the blanket arrangement, pointing out that it could facilitate China’s political persecution in the territory by giving Beijing the power to seek the transfer of wanted individuals.
Hong Kong man Chan Tong-kai, then 19, fled Taiwan after allegedly killing his Hong Kong girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing, 20, while the pair were traveling in Taipei in February last year.
After returning to Hong Kong, Chan was arrested for theft after using Poon’s stolen bank card to withdraw money from her account in both Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Taipei has sought Chan’s extradition, but to no avail because Hong Kong cited a lack of such an arrangement.
“We must not isolate Taiwan in amending the laws,” Lee said. “This is a legal deficiency that we have to fix once and for all so that similar cases do not happen in the future.”
He said the fact that China has signed fugitive-surrendering deals with 54 foreign countries is proof that the country’s human rights protection to extradited suspects is widely recognized.
Under the amendment, extradition requests will be examined on a case-by-case basis, and the chief executive of Hong Kong will have to issue an “authority to proceed” before a court vets the case in an open hearing. It will apply to 46 types of crimes including murder, with allegations related to politics, religion and race not valid reasons for extradition.
Supporting the amendment, lawmakers in the pro-establishment camp blamed the opposition side for politicizing the issue and said the Hong Kong court can be trusted in safeguarding human rights concerns.
An amendment bill is expected to be introduced within months.