Britain’s Minister for Asia has raised concerns over the plan to amend Hong Kong’s extradition laws, saying it is in China’s interests to maintain the city’s status as an international financial centre and preserve the One Country Two Systems model.

At a regular parliamentary session on Tuesday, Mark Field responded to a question posed by MP Fiona Bruce about whether the extradition bill could break down the separation of Hong Kong and China’s legal systems, guaranteed under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, thus undermining the city’s status as a global trading hub.

“We do believe the One Country, Two Systems model needs to work well, and it is in China’s interest for that to happen, not least for the reasons she pointed out about the importance of Hong Kong as an international financial capital,” Field told MPs.

Britain’s Minister for Asia Mark Field MP. Photo: Screenshot.

Hong Kong proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – most notably China and Taiwan. The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight, though lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland. 

Field’s comments come days after Hong Kong’s legislature descended into chaos as lawmakers from rival camps fought for control over the vetting process of the controversial bill. On Saturday, multiple legislators said they were injured in the melee, with Gary Fan of the Neo-Democrats carried out on a stretcher, and his pro-Beijing rival Chan Han-pan emerging later with his arm in a sling. Talks were halted on Tuesday after another skirmish broke out in the legislature, causing pro-establishment lawmakers to exit the meeting room.

‘Level of trust’

MP Barry Sheerman also asked the minister whether recent events to curb civil disobedience would affect “the level of trust” between the two governments. The Labour Party politician was referencing the sentencing of eight pro-democracy activists last month relating to various public nuisances charges for their involvement in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.

Field said in response his government is considering the potential impact of the bill amendments on UK citizens: “We have noted with great concern the widespread concern in Hong Kong over the proposed changes including the protest [on] the 28th of April and indeed the disorder on the floor of LegCo in relation to the extradition laws that are currently going through… We are considering these potential implications, including how they may affect UK citizens, and very much hope that will push to ensure that One Country, Two Systems – to which he referred – remains intact.”

Germany-Hong Kong rendition arrangements

The Vice-President of Germany’s parliament Claudia Roth also expressed concern over the proposed amendments, saying it could be grounds for cancelling existing fugitive transfer agreements with the city, according to pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok.

Kwok said that, since Tuesday, he has been on a five-day trip to Germany with former chief secretary Anson Chan, where they met with Roth and other members of the Bundestag to discuss bilateral relations.

He added that the Director of Foreign Policy in the Office of the Federal President Thomas Bugger expressed concern over the extradition bill, saying “no Germans or Hongkongers should be sent to mainland China for trial.”

Eighteen British MPs urged their government to consider whether proposals to amend Hong Kong’s extradition laws will have implications for existing rendition agreements between the two administrations, in a joint parliamentary motion tabled in March.

The cross-party group of MPs, which included Bruce as the primary sponsor of the motion, said they were concerned that the proposed law could facilitate the extradition of pro-democracy activists, journalists, dissidents and foreign nations – including business leaders – to China.

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Jennifer Creery

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.