Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that she does not see any reason to pull the government’s proposed updates to the city’s extradition laws, despite a chorus of criticism.

She said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday that the proposed bill has been under rigorous debate for three and a half months.

“What reasons are there that we should give up? This piece of work is very beneficial to the future development of society –  it can protect Hong Kong’s public safety, and fulfil Hong Kong’s international duty,” she said.

Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

She said heads of several disciplinary forces have spoken in support of the bill, and said she noticed that many members of the public have welcomed the extra protections in bill updates announced by Secretary for Security John Lee last week.

“As the chief executive, how can I retract this important piece of work because of criticism, including ad hominem criticism?” she said.

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 lawyersjournalistsforeign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland.

The government sought to move the debate to its final stage at the Legislative Council on June 12 to ensure it can pass before the summer break in mid-July.

Business concerns

Lam told reporters that she will give a response to eight commissioners from the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), who asked that the bill be “withdrawn from consideration.”

Also, on Monday night, the government issued a response to the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) on the extradition updates, after a meeting between Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung and AmCham Chairman Robert Grieves and President Tara Joseph on May 29.

Cheung restated the government’s position in a 4,700-word response.

“Given the full range of procedural, judicial and human rights safeguards clearly provided in the proposed case-based approach, any suggestion that it would risk undermining ‘One country, Two systems’ and Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness are unfounded,” he wrote.

Matthew Cheung. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Meanwhile, 30 prominent figures from Hong Kong’s legal sector have received a response from Lam after they asked for a meeting to discuss the extradition bill.

The 30 were part of the legal subsector of the Election Committee. The 1,200-member Election Committee are the only people in Hong Kong with the power to elect the chief executive.

Lam’s private secretary did not directly reject the invitation to a meeting in the response, but said the 30 could use the legislature’s Panel on Security to channel questions and comments.

Part of the members of the legal subsector of the Election Committee. Photo: Eric Cheung.

However, the reply also noted that the panel had ruled against arranging public deputations or inviting the Hong Kong Bar Association or the Law Society of Hong Kong to meet with the panel.

Eric Cheung, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong who is part of the 30-member group, said the government’s reply “perfectly showed who is the ostrich – who does not want to face reality.”

Hong Kong’s legal sector will stage a protest on Thursday, and the pro-democracy camp is planning a march against the extradition bill on Sunday.

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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.