A Hong Kong billionaire tycoon convicted of corruption in Macau has applied to challenge Hong Kong’s China extradition law update in court.

The upcoming amendment would allow China, as well as Macau, to extradite people from Hong Kong on a case-by-case basis. Hong Kong has no pre-existing extradition arrangement with Macau.

Joseph Lau, former chair of the Chinese Estates Holdings, revealed via his lawyers on Monday that he had asked the High Court for leave to apply for a judicial review.

Joseph Lau
Joseph Lau.

Lau was found guilty of bribery and money laundering in a land deal in Macau in 2014, and was sentenced to five years and three months in jail, alongside businessman Steven Lo. During the trial, Lau and Lo remained in Hong Kong and were tried in absentia. The pair have never served their sentences.

Lau’s lawyers asked the court to make a declaration that the surrender of Lau to Macau would contravene the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. It also asked the court to rule that any change to the extradition laws would not have a retrospective effect.

Sit, Fung, Kwong & Shum Solicitors, who represent Lau, said a copy of the application had been sent to the Secretary for Justice Theresa Cheng.

Wednesday debate

The amendment was published in the official gazette last week and is to be tabled at the legislature this Wednesday. Nine types of commercial crime were excluded following concerns from the business sector, but bribery remains on the list of relevant crimes.

The American Chamber of Commerce has still said it continues to have “serious concerns” despite the government backing down on several commercial crimes.

Emily Lau Lau Ming-wai
Emily Lau and Lau Ming-wai. Photo: Emily Lau.

Lau’s son Lau Ming-wai, vice-chair of the Youth Development Commission, was asked by former lawmaker Emily Lau about the extradition law during an OurTV online talk show last month. Lau Ming-wai said he has heard about concerns from the business sector, but it was inconvenient for him to comment.

“You know who my dad is,” he said. “Everything I say will not be neutral since it involves my dad.”

Judicial reviews are considered by the Court of First Instance and examine the decision-making processes of administrative bodies. Issues under review must be shown to affect the wider public interest.

Freedom House opposition

Meanwhile, US NGO Freedom House President Michael J. Abramowitz has written to Chief Executive Carrie Lam to urge her to postpone the vote and extend the consultation period for the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance.

“The lack of rule of law in mainland China and the widespread abuse of prisoners places any Hong Kong resident who is extradited to the mainland at serious risk of due process violations and other infringements on their basic human rights,” Abramowitz wrote.

“This risk is amplified in the case of journalists, political activists, religious believers, and critics of the Chinese Communist Party who are largely able to exercise their rights in Hong Kong but whose activities are deemed criminal in China.”

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Abramowitz said that, even if political crimes are excluded from the agreement, the Chinese government has been known to punish journalists and other activists based on trumped-up charges.

He said the decline in Hong Kong’s human rights, freedom of expression, and the rule of law has already harmed Hong Kong’s international reputation, and passage of the extradition amendments in their current form will accelerate the deterioration.

He urged the Hong Kong government to allow time to consider alternative proposals put forth by local civil society groups, legal professional groups, and the private sector.

The Hong Kong Free Press #PressForFreedom 2019 Funding Drive seeks to raise HK$1.2m to support our non-profit newsroom and dedicated team of multi-media, multi-lingual reporters.  HKFP is backed by readers, run by journalists and is immune to political and commercial pressure. This year’s critical fundraiser will provide us with the essential funds to continue our work into next year.

hong kong free press 2019 press for freedom funding drive footer (2)
Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.