'Don't make me exile myself from HK': Fugitive tycoon Joseph Lau, on the run from Macau, files a judicial review against proposed extradition law amendment

Top News | Phoenix Un 2 Apr 2019

Fugitive tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung yesterday sprang a surprise by filing a judicial review against the proposed fugitive law amendment, demanding the Court of First Instance declare that he should not be surrendered to Macau for imprisonment.

If not, it would compel Lau to "exile himself from Hong Kong."

The writ argued that his detention and removal from Hong Kong due to the extradition violated his rights and were thus unconstitutional, which would be immediate and irreversible.

It would be rare, if not unprecedented, for the local court to grant a judicial review of an issue that had not yet been passed into law.

But the writ said that - even though the fugitive law amendment had yet to be approved by the Legislative Council, which was expected to happen by July - the court should not consider it premature to grant the relief sought.

The writ slammed the Macau court as unjust in sentencing the former Chinese Estates chairman Lau in absentia, and said Lau would be "compelled to exile himself from Hong Kong" if the fugitive law amendment passed.

Lau, along with another Hong Kong businessman, Steven Lo Kit-sing, was convicted by the Macau Court of First Instance of bribing the then-Macau Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Ao Man-long, and money laundering.

They were sentenced to five years and three months jail in 2014, but the two did not serve the sentence as there was no extradition arrangement between Macau and Hong Kong.

The law firm Sit, Fung, Kwong and Shum filed the judicial review yesterday on behalf of Lau, against the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, to the Court of First Instance to apply for relief.

The writ began by declaring that Lau "has a direct legal interest in the subject matter of the Bill," and argued that the Macau court proceeded with the trial when Lau was involuntarily absent due to sickness.

"The applicant was tried and convicted entirely in absentia despite his acknowledged involuntary absence," the writ said, arguing that Lau's removal to Macau would violate the Bill of Rights "since Macanese law failed to guarantee him the prospect of a full and fair retrial on fact and law."

The writ accused the Macau court of relying on a "diary" of Ao as evidence to convict Lau, but Lau's side was not even able to access the whole of the diary.

The writ then argued that the fugitive law should not have retrospective effect, as it caused "conspicuous unfairness" by allowing any extradition of criminals who allegedly committed crimes before the enactment of the amendment.

"The common law views as repugnant retrospective laws that create unfairness, and accordingly legislation will not be interpreted as operating retrospectively," the writ said.

The writ said the Security Bureau's explanation to the Legislative Council implied that the fugitive law would apply retrospectively to cover a Taiwan homicide case, in which a Hong Kong resident allegedly murdered another in Taiwan last year.

"The drafters of the bill therefore appear to have proceeded on the basis that legislation can have retrospective effect without clear words to that effect or a necessary implication," the writ said.

The mere threat of the law coming into force also leaves Lau "living under a considerable cloud."

Lau's side argued that any such restriction on fundamental rights should only be exercised in accordance with the law.

The power of the chief executive to issue a certificate for surrender proceedings was unbounded and would be readily available for arbitrary use.

Although the writ mentioned why Lau should apply for a judicial review now, legislator Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan still found it too early.

"The court, unless under very special circumstances, would not grant relief for cases in which the law is not passed by Legco," he said.

Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, the legal sector legislator, said it would be difficult to estimate whether the legislation would be delayed as the judicial review was a rare case.

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