The Hong Kong government has narrowed the scope of its proposed extradition law update but it is still not narrow enough, according to the American Chamber of Commerce.
AmCham said on Friday that it continues to have “serious concerns” about the plan as it could be used to extradite people from Hong Kong to other jurisdictions with very different criminal procedure systems. Under the new plan, the public and the legislature would not have an opportunity to scrutinise “the fairness of those systems and the specific safeguards that should be sought in cases originating from them.”
“We strongly believe that the proposed arrangements will reduce the appeal of Hong Kong to international companies considering Hong Kong as a base for regional operations,” AmCham said in a statement.
Hong Kong has traditionally signed bilateral extradition agreements with specific jurisdictions, but last month, the government proposed a case-by-case system that would allow the city to handle extradition requests from jurisdictions where there were no pre-existing deals – most notably China and Taiwan.
The plan received pushback from business sector leaders, who were concerned that people accused of commercial crimes could be extradited to the mainland. Some local business representatives said that violent crimes should be handled first, and commercial crimes removed.
AmCham said in a previous statement that it had “serious reservations” about the proposal and asked for “more narrowly tailored solutions.”
“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,” read an AmCham letter to the city’s security chief, dated March 4.
On Tuesday, Secretary for Security John Lee announced that nine types of commercial crime will be excluded from the upcoming update to the city’s extradition laws. Additionally, the updated amendment will only apply to offences with a minimum jail sentence of three years.
The bill was gazetted on Friday and will be sent to the Legislative Council on April 3.
In its Friday statement, AmCham said it “acknowledges and appreciates” the government’s efforts to respond to business community feedback, but maintained that it had “serious concerns.” The statement also cut any specific reference to China, only saying that there were jurisdictions with systems very different from Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong’s international reputation for the rule of law is its priceless treasure. We therefore again request that the Government consider alternative, more narrowly tailored means to address any truly urgent extradition-related issues facing the Hong Kong community, while allowing for all others a deliberative process worthy of the vital interests at stake,” it added.
The American business network is one of the few remaining voices opposing the government’s watered-down proposal.
Lawmaker Jeffrey Lam from the pro-Beijing Business and Professionals Alliance said the change successfully eased the concerns of his constituents, and the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the changes.
Pro-democracy political group Demosisto staged another protest against the extradition law update on Friday, saying that the plan did not address human rights concerns about China’s criminal justice system.
Thirteen protesters held a pre-dawn sit-in outside the official residence of Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng. They held placards and hung a banner on the fence reading: “Extradition to the mainland, Hong Kong becomes a dark prison.”
The demonstration lasted around three hours and ended without arrests.
Demosisto members had previously held a sit-in at the lobby of the Central Government Offices, and tried to speak to top officials Lee and Cheng while they attended District Council meetings.
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