Organizers of an ongoing signature campaign supporting the extradition law amendment bill announce on Friday that it has garnered 221,318 signatures so far. (ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG-More than 220,000 people have thrown their weight behind the government’s plan to amend the city’s extradition laws, according to the initial results of a city-wide signature campaign released on Friday.
The ongoing campaign, being conducted online and at street stands, was launched on April 16 by an alliance formed by 12 political, business and legal dignitaries in support of the proposed amendments.
By 12 pm on Friday, 221,318 people had signed up, backing the move to revise the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance.
Solicitor Kennedy Wong Ying-ho — the convener and spokesman for the alliance — said the number of signatures collected so far shows that mainstream public opinion wants the extradition laws to be amended to prevent Hong Kong from turning into a shelter for fugitive criminal suspects, and to safeguard the rule of law and justice in society.
The results of the campaign have been submitted to Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu.
The alliance urged opposition lawmakers to listen to the public’s views and scrutinize the bill in a rational manner, instead of politicizing the legal issue and stirring up antagonistic sentiments in the community.
Wong, who’s also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference — the nation’s top political advisory body — said seven more prominent social figures have joined the alliance to help explain the amendments to a broader audience in order to dispel misunderstanding and unnecessary fear.
The new members include business leaders Rock Chen Chung-nin and Ricky Tsang Chi-ming, lawyer Maggie Chan Man-ki and veteran businessman Wong Ting-chung.
Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on Friday the government hoped the bill could be deliberated calmly and rationally. The government will step up efforts to explain the amendments to Hong Kong people and the international community, he said.
Cheung reiterated that the government hopes the Legislative Council bills committee vetting the proposed amendments could begin their deliberations as soon as possible.
Hong Kong has agreements on reciprocal transfers of fugitives with 20 other jurisdictions, which do not include Taiwan, Macao and the Chinese mainland. The law revamp would allow Hong Kong to surrender fugitives on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions worldwide.
The bills committee was to have started scrutinizing the amendments late last month, but has been stalled due to continued filibustering by opposition lawmakers.
A dedicated bills committee is expected to elect a chairperson and vice-chairperson today (Saturday) so that deliberations on the amendments can go ahead.
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