Any update to the city’s extradition laws should be handled with extreme caution and not rushed, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) said on Tuesday.

A paper sent to the legislature by the Security Bureau has proposed amending extradition laws to allow Hong Kong to handle extradition requests from jurisdictions where there are no preexisting agreements, most notably from mainland China and Taiwan.

statue of justice court
Photo: Court of Final Appeal.

The HKGCC said it was concerned about people in Hong Kong being extradited over crimes perceived to be less serious, adding that extradition should be reserved only for “the most heinous” of crimes.

We would encourage engagement by the Government to consider views being raised in the community, so that if the proposal goes forward there is a clearly-defined framework that commands broad public support,” said HKGCC Chairman Aron Harilela. “Other issues also need to be considered. These include offences that may qualify for potential extradition and the safeguards available to protect the individual accused of the crime.”

The trade group said that the safeguards outlined in the government paper do not go far enough and extradition agreements with other jurisdictions, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, contain a “much longer” list of grounds for potential refusal.

The proposal has sparked a backlash from local and international business sectors over the potential for suspects to be extradited to the mainland in relation to financial crimes.

In a letter to the Secretary for Security John Lee in March, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong raised “grave concerns” over the city’s compatibility with China’s rule of law and its high conviction rate, saying: “Mainland criminal process has deep flaws, including lack of an independent judiciary, arbitrary detention, lack of fair public trial, lack of access to legal representation and poor prison conditions.”

HKGCC Chairman Aron Harilela
Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce Chairman Aron Harilela. Photo: Screenshot.

Hong Kong has an existing system for dealing with one-off extradition requests but they must be scrutinised by the legislature.

The Security Bureau has proposed amending the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (FOO) and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (MLAO) to enable a case-by-case approach to fugitive transfer requests.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.