2019 Hong Kong extradition bill

Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019
Legco.svg
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
Considered byLegislative Council of Hong Kong
Legislative history
Bill published on29 March 2019 (2019-03-29)
Introduced bySecretary for Security John Lee
First reading3 April 2019 (2019-04-03)
Amends
Fugitive Offenders Ordinance
Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance
Status: Withdrawn

The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 (Chinese: 2019年逃犯及刑事事宜相互法律協助法例(修訂)條例草案) was a proposed bill regarding Cap. 525) so that arrangements for mutual legal assistance can be made between Hong Kong and any place outside Hong Kong.[2] The bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 to establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives not only for Taiwan, but also for Mainland China and Macau, which are currently excluded in the existing laws.[3]

The introduction of the bill caused widespread criticism domestically and abroad from the legal profession, journalist organisations, business groups, and foreign governments fearing the erosion of Hong Kong's legal system and its built-in safeguards, as well as damage to Hong Kong's business climate. Largely, this fear is attributed to China's newfound ability through this bill to arrest voices of political dissent in Hong Kong. There have been multiple protests against the bill in Hong Kong and other cities abroad. On 9 June, protesters estimated to number from hundreds of thousands to more than a million marched in the streets and called for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down.[4][5] On 15 June, Lam announced she would 'suspend' the proposed bill.[6] Ongoing protests called for a complete withdrawal of the bill and subsequently the implementation of universal suffrage, which is promised in the Basic Law. On 4 September, after 13 weeks of protests, Lam officially promised to withdraw the bill upon the resumption of the legislative session from its summer recess.[7][8] On 23 October, Secretary for Security John Lee announced the government's formal withdrawal of the bill.[9][10]

Background

In the final months of British rule, Hong Kong passed laws barring the extradition to mainland China due to concerns of freedoms promised under the one-country, two-systems formula.[11] Beijing began plans to reverse this law almost immediately after the handover in 1997.[11] In 2015, five people involved in selling books critical of the Chinese government disappeared and later reappeared in Chinese custody, becoming known as the Causeway Bay Books disappearances. The push came to a head in 2017 when a Chinese billionaire living in Hong Kong named Xiao Jianhua was abducted from his serviced apartment in Hong Kong by Chinese security forces. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection had been frustrated by the fact that it had to resort to extraordinary rendition and thereafter pushed for an extradition treaty. The extradition law would eliminate the need for PRC agents to resort to kidnappings in Hong Kong.[11]

In early 2018, 19-year-old Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai killed his pregnant girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing in Taiwan, then returned to Hong Kong. Chan admitted to Hong Kong police that he killed Poon, but the police were unable to charge him for murder or extradite him to Taiwan because no agreement is in place.[12] The two ordinances in Hong Kong, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, were not applicable to the requests for surrender of fugitive offenders and mutual legal assistance between Hong Kong and Taiwan.[12][13] The pro-Beijing flagship party Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) chairwoman Starry Lee and legislator Holden Chow pushed for a change to the extradition law in 2019 using the murder case as rationale.[11] In February 2019, the government proposed changes to fugitive laws, establishing a mechanism for case-by-case transfers of fugitives by the Hong Kong Chief Executive to any jurisdiction with which the city lacks a formal extradition treaty, which it claimed would close the "legal loophole".[14] Chen Zhimin, Zhang Xiaoming, and Han Zheng of the PRC publicly supported the change and stated that 300 fugitives were living in Hong Kong.[11] Beijing's involvement in the proposed bill caused great concerns in Hong Kong.[15]

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