Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, has said that the Hong Kong government’s claim that the controversial extradition bill will close a loophole was “absolute nonsense.”

“People have known exactly why there shouldn’t be an extradition agreement with China for years, and many of the arguments put for the government’s proposals don’t actually pass the laugh-off-your-seat test,” Chris Patten said in a new video message issued on Thursday.

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“The argument that, well, it’s better to have an extradition treaty than to abduct people illegally from Hong Kong – are people really supposed to believe that?”

Chris Patten
Chris Patten. Photo: Screenshot.

The Hong Kong government 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 has been claiming that the lack of an agreement with mainland China 22 years after the Handover constituted a “loophole.”

Patten said the proposal will remove the “firewall” between Hong Kong’s rule of law and the Chinese legal system, which lacks independent courts.

carrie lam
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. File Photo: GovHK.

He said the government had not thought through questions raised by Hong Kong society including those from leaders of the Hong Kong Bar Association. The bill may harm Hong Kong’s status, Patten said.

‘Just another China city’

“When I was governor a long time ago, I used to travel to Washington fairly regularly to argue the case for treating Hong Kong differently from, say, Shenzhen and Shanghai,” he said.

“But if you appear to be regarding Hong Kong from Beijing as though it was just another China city, then sooner or later, economic governments around the world, businesses around the world, when they’re looking even at things like the Belt and Road Initiative, they’re going to regard Hong Kong as just another part of China, and that would be really bad for the standard of living, for the quality of life in Hong Kong!”

Malcolm Rifkind
Malcolm Rifkind. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Patten’s message echoed views from Malcolm Rifkind, British foreign minister between 1995 and 1997, who wrote in an op-ed this week that the claim of a loophole was “absurd.”

The Hong Kong government has sought to move the debate to its final stage at the Legislative Council by next Wednesday to ensure the extradition bill will pass before the summer break in mid-July.

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A march has been planned for Sunday, where thousands are expected to turn up to oppose the bill.

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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.