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Saturday, June 01, 2019, 17:36
Chief executive calls for rational discussion on extradition bill
By Kathy Zhang in Hong Kong
Saturday, June 01, 2019, 17:36 By Kathy Zhang in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attends a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Council on May 22, 2019. (ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor called on different sectors on Friday to join a "rational and pragmatic" discussion of the city's revised extradition bill.

Lam made the remarks a day after the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government announced a list of changes to the extradition bill on late Thursday.

Lam made the remarks a day after the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government announced a list of changes to the extradition bill on late Thursday

They include raising the prison threshold for extraditable offenses from the original three years to seven years, and that any extradition request must be made through the top level of government of the jurisdiction in question.

The revisions were made to ease public concerns, Lam said. After making such changes, it is clearer that the amendments to the current extradition law are targeting heinous crimes, she said.

Lam also urged lawmakers to make full use of special meetings held by the Legislative Council Panel on Security to discuss the proposed extradition bill.

READ MORE: HK to raise threshold for extraditable offenses

The panel scheduled five special meetings from Friday through Tuesday to discuss the amendments.

The meetings, altogether 20 hours, a platform for lawmakers and officials to talk about the issue face to face, will play a positive role in alleviating worries about the bill, Lam said.

Lawmakers can get a response from officials directly, Lam said, adding it will be helpful to allay public concerns over the law amendments. She also called for pragmatic discussions on the matter from various sectors.

ALSO READ: Elsie Leung: Extradition law amendments essential for HK

The first special meeting was held on Friday morning. Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah attended the meeting and answered lawmakers' questions on the bill.

The revision was welcomed by the city's five major business associations - the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, the Hong Kong Chinese Importers' and Exporters' Association, the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, and the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong.

In addition, the city's leading law expert, Albert Chen Hung-yee, also acknowledged the government's efforts to respond to public concerns over the rendition bill. In Chen's view, the government's new changes to the extradition bill, in general, are acceptable.

The professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong said the government's decision to raise the sentencing threshold for extraditable offense is in line with the spirit of special surrender arrangements, also known as case-based surrender arrangements.

Different from regular long-term surrender arrangements, special surrender arrangements are used to punish heinous crimes, Chen said.

In a separate development, a number of prominent figures in society joined an online campaign to express their opposition to joint statements issued by local schools opposing the government's move to amend the extradition law. They stressed such statements do not represent their stances and asked opposition supporters not to "kidnap" the alumni.

The dignitaries include local columnist Chris Wat Wing-yin and Legislator Steven Ho Chun-yin, who represents the Agriculture and Fisheries functional constituency.

The proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance will be tabled before LegCo's full council for the second reading to resume on June 12.

If LegCo passes the extradition bill, Hong Kong will be allowed to transfer fugitives on a case-by-case basis to or from jurisdictions that have had no surrendering arrangement with the city. Currently, the Chinese mainland, Macao and Taiwan are among jurisdictions that don't have extradition agreements with Hong Kong.

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