Beijing hit back Friday at concerns voiced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over Hong Kong’s plans to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland, accusing Washington of an attempt to “intervene” in the city’s internal affairs.
Hong Kong’s government is pushing a bill through the city’s legislature which would allow case-by-case extraditions to any jurisdictions it doesn’t have an already agreed treaty with, including mainland China.
Historically the city has balked at mainland extraditions because of the opacity of China’s criminal justice system and its liberal use of the death penalty.
The extradition plan has sparked huge protests and mounting alarm within Hong Kong’s business and legal communities — as well as foreign governments — who fear it will hammer the semi-autonomous financial hub’s international appeal.
Pompeo “expressed concern” about the bill and its potential to undermine rule of law in the city during Thursday talks in Washington, a State Department spokeswoman said.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the bill was needed to “to plug legal loopholes” in Hong Kong’s judicial system and prevent the financial hub from becoming “a haven for criminals”.
“It is a mistake to intervene in Hong Kong in any form,” Lu told a regular briefing.
“Trying to take advantage of the opportunity to create chaos in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will not be popular or successful.”
Pompeo spoke on the bill during a meeting with a delegation headed by Martin Lee, a founder of Hong Kong’s opposition Democratic Party.
In an opinion piece this week in the Washington Post, Lee warned that the extradition law could make Americans and other foreigners “potential hostages to extradition claims driven by the political agenda of Beijing”.
“The time for the world to act to protect Hong Kong’s free society and legal system is now — not when Hong Kong people and others are taken to be jailed in China,” he wrote.
A recent report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an advisory body set up by the US Congress, warned that the extradition bill posed “serious” security risks to the estimated 85,000 US citizens in Hong Kong.
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