HK right to pass extradition bill: Maria Tam

Updated: 2019-05-29 07:29

By Joseph Li in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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'Fair and reasonable' to handle Taiwan murder case and plug legal loopholes at the same time

Hong Kong is correct to make amendments to the extradition laws, said Maria Tam Wai-chu, deputy director of the Basic Law Committee.

The bill will be debated at a full Legislative Council meeting on June 12. Hong Kong has signed permanent agreements on the surrender of fugitive offenders with only 20 jurisdictions.

As to handing over fugitive offenders to places with which the SAR has not signed any extradition agreements, the government needs to put subsidiary legislation before LegCo; this process will take several weeks.

If amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance are approved, this will help resolve the Taiwan murder case involving a Hong Kong citizen, Tam said.

It would also provide a legal basis for Hong Kong to enter into extradition agreements with some 150 jurisdictions, including other parts of China, on a case-by-case basis, she added.

"It is fair and reasonable to handle the two tasks concurrently," she told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

HK right to pass extradition bill: Maria Tam

In Tam's view, Hong Kong's extradition mechanism provides adequate legal, human rights safeguards in line with United Nations standards. This means possible offenders involved in issues concerning politics, religion, race, etc will not be extradited. Only fugitive offenders suspected of serious crimes such as murder and rape will be subject to extradition; many commercial crimes are also excluded.

The chief executive, on the recommendation of the secretary for justice, will be the one who triggers the extradition mechanism. But it will be the courts that act as the final gatekeeper. If a suspect is unhappy with the extradition decision, he or she can seek judicial review of the decision from the Court of Final Appeal.

"Many critics doubt whether the chief executive will refuse to surrender fugitive offenders demanded by the central government," said Tam. "But it must be noted that if the Court of Final Appeal rules that an offender should not be surrendered, the chief executive or the government cannot surrender that offender. That simply would not happen," she added.

Discussing the murder case involving a Hong Kong man in Taiwan, Tam noted that the Taiwan authorities have insisted, for political reasons, that they won't take back the suspect from Hong Kong, even if the extradition mechanism were to become law.

"If the Taiwan authorities refuse to accept the murderer that Hong Kong is willing to surrender, then it is their responsibility. Hong Kong people have done their very best to see justice prevail."

(HK Edition 05/29/2019 page4)