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Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 09:16
CE: Amendments to avoid SAR becoming criminal haven
By Chen Zimo in Hong Kong
Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 09:16 By Chen Zimo in Hong Kong

The proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition law aims at preventing the city from becoming a haven for criminals, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday.

The revised amendments, which proposed a fugitive transfer mechanism between Hong Kong and any jurisdictions with no legal assistance arrangements with the special administrative region — including the mainland, Macao and Taiwan — will be tabled to the Legislative Council for deliberation on April 3.

The SAR government is determined to safeguard the city’s law and order, and combat any violations against its laws, Lam said

READ MORE: HK's majority opinion backs amendment to extradition law

According to the proposed amendments, Hong Kong police, with the authorization of the courts, will be able to hand over fugitives requested by other jurisdictions.

Such arrangements will be conducted on a one-off, case-by-case basis, with prior approval from the chief executive before an application is submitted to the courts.

The decision was sparked by a 2018 case when a Hong Kong man was suspected of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan.

The move will plug loopholes in Hong Kong’s legal system and avoid the city becoming a safe haven for fugitives, Lam stressed.

The government is firm in making the move as it is “empathetic and compassionate” to the family of the victim of the Taiwan case and many others in similar cases, Lam stressed.

Moreover, the SAR government is also determined to safeguard the city’s law and order, and combat any violations against its laws, Lam said.

According to Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, the Security Bureau took public opinions from various sectors into consideration. It referred to other precedents of such arrangements in the United Kingdom and Canada, he added.

The bureau also consulted the Department of Justice for legal opinions.

All existing human rights and procedural safeguards provided for in the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance will be maintained in the special surrender arrangement, explained Lee, such as applications for habeas corpus and judicial reviews of the CE’s decision.

Also protected by the ordinance, there will be no surrender of people for offenses involving political opinions and religious or racial issues. No double jeopardy and no resurrenders will happen in any other place, according to the law.

ALSO READ: HK courts to be gatekeeper of fugitive ordinance, says Chan

So far the SAR government has signed long-term mutual legal assistance in surrender of fugitive agreements with 20 jurisdictions. The “special surrender arrangements” will be considered if criminal cases involve countries and regions other than these 20, Lee said.

Meanwhile, nine items of the 46 offenses listed in the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance will not be included in the new mechanism, including those involving bankruptcy, company securities and futures trading, intellectual property, environmental pollution, control of exportation or importation of goods, unlawful use of computers, taxes, and false or misleading trade descriptions.

The reserved 37 items are all relatively serious offenses under Hong Kong law, said Lee. He said the law enforcement agencies will only deal with offenses that can be prosecuted in Hong Kong, and those punishable by imprisonment for more than three years, according to past legal files.

Hong Kong has previously made different long-term legal assistance arrangements with other jurisdictions. The agreement with Finland covers 21 items, Canada 27, and the Netherlands 30, according to official documents.

Separately, the amendments also propose that another legal basis for judicial cooperation — the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance — expand its scope of application to all jurisdictions.

mollychen@chinadailyhk.com

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