A petition on the “We the People” website asking Washington to review its existing extradition agreement with Hong Kong had received more than 100,000 signatures by Monday.
The White House pledges to respond to any petition on the website that gains more than 100,000 signatures – the required threshold – within 30 days.
The petition, launched on May 15, refers to the Hong Kong government’s proposed extradition bill, which will allow the city to transfer fugitives to jurisdictions with which it has no existing rendition deals – most notably China.
“This controversial Bill would allow the authorities in the People’s Republic of China to arrest people in Hong Kong, or even confiscate their properties, through issuing Extradition Requests to the Hong Kong Government,” the petition read.
“Therefore, we urge the US Government to voice opposition on such amendments, and review the existing Extradition Agreement with Hong Kong.”
Former pro-democracy lawmaker Nathan Law urged members of the public to sign: “In 2003, the White House issued a statement opposing legislation of Article 23 [national security law], and other countries followed suit to issue statements – this will create more international pressure to put [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam in a more difficult position,” he said.
The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight, though lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland.
Int’l pressure mounts
After a meeting with Law and members of a Hong Kong politician delegation to Washington, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern about the extradition bill, saying that it threatened Hong Kong’s rule of law, according to a statement.
In a joint statement, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland urged Hong Kong to allow time to give proper consideration of all alternative options and safeguards for the extradition bill.
In early September 2014, a petition called “Support Hong Kong Democracy and Prevent A Second Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong” was launched on the website and obtained 197,001 signatures.
“Beijing’s recent decision ruled out a democratic election of the HK Chief Executive, which has made large-scale peaceful protests in Hong Kong inevitable. Given Beijing’s records, we fear a second Tiananmen Massacre will happen in Hong Kong,” it said, urging the US government to make it clear to the Beijing authorities that “any effort to crackdown peaceful demonstrations by force will be strongly opposed and severely punished.”
The White House later said in response that it supported universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law and supported the aspirations of the Hong Kong people.
“We believe that the legitimacy of the Chief Executive will be greatly enhanced if the Basic Law’s ultimate aim of selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage is fulfilled and if the election provides the people of Hong Kong a genuine choice of candidates representative of the voters’ will,” it said.
In April, tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets in protest of the proposal as democrats have sought to hinder the bill’s progress at the legislature. The legal sector are set to stage a rare protest on Thursday, and a mass rally is planned in Hong Kong this Sunday.
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