The Hong Kong government has once again brought seemingly innocent amendments to the law they wish to pass, specifically to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.
Subsequently, on Sunday, over ten thousand people marched towards the Government Headquarters at Admiralty to protest against this amendment.
So what is changing, and who cares?
Currently, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance states that Hong Kong can send fugitives to other jurisdictions, once
a) The Legislative Council deems it appropriate to extradite said person;
b) The HK court agrees and;
c) The Chief Executive of Hong Kong agrees
It should be noted that this does not apply to Mainland China and Taiwan at this moment.
After the amendments, a fugitive could be sent to any jurisdiction if
a) The HK court agrees and;
b) The Chief Executive of Hong Kong agrees.
The ordinance currently does not apply to Mainland China and Taiwan. Another proposed amendment of the ordinance suggests that extradition should be treated on a case-by-case basis and thereby making it possible for extradition with countries that Hong Kong has not entered an agreement with, regarding such judicial matters.
Earlier in 2018, a man named Chan, killed his girlfriend in Taiwan, and returned to Hong Kong. Taiwanese officials requested the man but to no avail due to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance not applying to Taiwan. Carrie Lam said that she hoped to pass the amendments before July, citing that it would be unfair to the family of Poon, as Chan could not be tried in Taiwan for murder under current law.
Despite the Chief Executive citing such a seemingly strong justification for the amendments, people are worried that the case may just be a façade used to cover the more politically sensitive side of the amendment.
Secretary of Security K.C Lee stressed that even after the amendments, the ordinance still states that any crime of political character shall not be a ground for Hong Kong to surrender a person to another jurisdiction.
However, there have been instances where China has persecuted political dissidents based on laws that are unrelated to politics. For example, Ai Weiwei, a Chinese activist, was detained for three months for tax evasion. Which is a crime encompassed by a list of 46 serious crimes that allows a person to be surrendered to another jurisdiction.
Under the current political climate, if Carrie Lam just hoped to accelerate the process of helping the victim of the Taiwan murder case, it would be much easier and quicker to add Taiwan to the list of 20 jurisdictions that Hong Kong could surrender a person to.
In any case, the addition of Mainland China to be covered in the umbrella of this ordinance is unjustified and could potentially be dangerous. The fear of being surrendered to China and being tried in courts under the PRC’s jurisdiction may well be enough to stifle the freedom of speech in Hong Kong, which is currently under serious threat.