The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 (“The Bill”) has been submitted to the Legislative Council by the HKSAR government recently. The Bill has been published in the Gazette on 29th March, with First Reading on 3rd April. The amendment will allow the HKSAR government to surrender suspects in criminal cases between Hong Kong and jurisdictions with which the SAR has not entered into a formal bilateral extradition agreement, including China, a jurisdiction with an opaque judiciary system and tattered human rights record. As the Bill may put all Hong Kong people and those set foot in Hong Kong at risk, Students’ Unions of Higher Institutions solemnly oppose the amendment of the extradition laws.
Concerns about the PRC judiciary system was deep-rooted and widespread in the international community. There have been frequent reports of “enforced disappearance” of civil right activists and lawyers, who suffered long-term detention without receiving a fair trial or even subject to torture and ill-treatment. The Bill ignores the continuing human rights concerns in China and allows Hong Kong people and any overseas visitors in Hong Kong to be handed to the authorities in China, a country that fails to meet the international human right standard. After the Bill is passed, the HKSAR government have no way to protect the suspects’ right to a fair trial and their right to freedom from torture. It is foreseeable that the Bill will eventually become a tool for political suppression and the personal freedom of all Hong Kong people and visitors are under severe threat.
Since the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, there has been no shortage of controversies on the extradition of fugitives to China in Hong Kong’s society. The “Fugitive Offenders Ordinance” does not apply between Hong Kong and China, this is not a ‘loophole in law’, as pronounced by the HKSAR government, but the reflection of Hong Kong people and their lawmakers’ absolute distrust in China’s judicial system and human rights treatment. 22 years later, the HKSAR government attempted to make a breach through a case that had not even the slightest to do with China, it is abundantly clear why the government would crack open the door of fugitive extradition to China. We believe that this is Pandora’s Box, it would be unimaginable what could possibly happen if the defence of our laws is torn down. The SAR government repeatedly claimed that the courts in Hong Kong could safeguard the extradition, but as barrister Margaret Ng said, whether fair trials are available in China is not something Hong Kong courts could possibly decide and the courts can only make their decisions on the basis of documents provided by China, the ‘safeguard’ would practically be non-functional.
Ironically, the HKSAR government crumbled under the pressure of powerful businesses and merchants and removed 9 business-related offences. However, they failed to offer a proper explanation on the differential treatment between merchants suspected of committing a business-related offence and suspects with other offences, especially when they are to be trialled under the same arbitrary judicial system in China. This does not only indicated the HKSAR government’s preferential treatment for merchants and business, but also caused their claim of ‘preventing Hong Kong from becoming a paradise for fugitive offenders’ to collapse on itself. In fact, no matter how many offences are removed, it does not change the fact that China’s legal system is extremely unjust. The Chinese government could easily create any offence to extradite Hong Kong businessmen to the courts of China. After the Bill is passed, every Hong Kong citizen, merchants included, cannot spare themselves from becoming meat on the chopping block.
The HKSAR government held high the banner of ‘justice for the victim’s family in the Taiwan murder case’, but has completely ignored the counter proposals raised by the legal field, including the suggestion of the Bar Association of amending the “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance”. The HKSAR government wore the sheep’s skin of ‘plugging the loopholes in law’, but could not be more obviously sharpening their claws to hunt down dissenters in their administration. It would be unacceptable for us not to speak up against such shameful act, we demand the HKSAR government to withdraw the Bill immediately. We also call for the unity of Hong Kong people, rise up against the unjust amendment, protect our rights and dignity.
The Hong Kong University Students’ Union
The Student Union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students’ Union
The Provisional Executive Committee of City University of Hong Kong Students’ Union
The Provisional Executive Council of The Education University of Hong Kong Students’ Union
The Provisional Executive Committee of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Students’ Union
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Students’ Union
The Hong Kong Federation of Students
The Student Union of Lee Woo Sing College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Student Union of S. H. Ho College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Executive Committee of Shaw College Student Union, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Student Union of Wu Yee Sun College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Student Union, Chung Chi College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Executive Committee of Student Union, United College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
New Asia College Student Union, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
2nd April 2019