The clash between lawmakers over Hong Kong’s extradition law amendment is set to escalate again after a new counter-proposal was offered by democrat Alvin Yeung.
The Civic Party lawmaker proposed a members’ bill on Thursday that called for expanding the powers of the Hong Kong government and judiciary, so that they will be able to deal with some types of criminal cases that happen outside of the city.
The bill is meant to compete with the government’s proposal of a case-by-case extradition system, where criminal suspects could be transferred to jurisdictions that have no pre-existing legal arrangement with Hong Kong.
“[The bill] is the most effective way to tackle the injustice brought by the Taiwan murder case,” Yeung said, referring to the death of Hong Kong woman Poon Hiu-wing.
Poon was allegedly killed by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai during their 2018 trip to Taiwan. Hong Kong authorities arrested Chan but were unable to charge him with murder in local courts – instead, he was charged with money laundering.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam previously urged the legislature to pass the amendment before July, since Hong Kong courts may be forced to free Chan if there was no option to extradite him.
However, democrats have accused the government of using the murder case as a pretext to rush through a problematic law.
Yeung said that, under his counter-proposal, Chan could simply be tried as a murder suspect in local courts. “This bill can demonstrate to the government, and the public, that there is a way to deal with it – the government just chooses not to,” he added.
If a Hong Kong permanent resident commits homicide, manslaughter or attempted murder overseas, it should be an option for the case to be heard in Hong Kong, Yeung said. His bill also suggests empowering Hong Kong authorities to take charge of criminal investigations, prosecutions, trials and the serving of sentences – all of which would be done locally.
Yeung’s bill drew the scepticism from pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow, who said that the proposal would still not resolve the Taiwan case because Hong Kong laws do not punish people for past lawful acts that have subsequently become unlawful.
The pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps have been at odds over the government’s extradition proposal since last month, and tensions are expected to come to a head next Tuesday when lawmakers resume their meeting to vet the proposal’s contents.
The first such meeting, which took place last Wednesday, broke down after the committee failed to elect a chairperson or vice-chairperson – thus making any discussion impossible.
The pro-Beijing camp has accused democrats of stalling, and some have suggested stronger measures to prevent a repeat performance next week.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To will continue to preside over the meeting, though he will be unseated once a formal leader for the committee is elected.
In a related development, the murder suspect Chan will go to court on Monday to receive sentencing for his money-laundering charges, to which he had earlier pleaded guilty. Some have voiced concerns that Chan could walk free on the spot, since he had already served time before the trial.
The Civil Human Rights Front – a coalition of pro-democracy groups – will hold a protest march against the government’s proposal on Sunday. It will be the second of its kind, with the previous march prompting thousands of Hongkongers to take to the streets.
The Hong Kong Free Press #PressForFreedom 2019 Funding Drive seeks to raise HK$1.2m to support our non-profit newsroom and dedicated team of multi-media, multi-lingual reporters. HKFP is backed by readers, run by journalists and is immune to political and commercial pressure. This year’s critical fundraiser will provide us with the essential funds to continue our work into next year.