US fugitive bill alarm dismissed

Top News | Phoenix Un 9 May 2019

A US congressional commission has "gone too far" in its expression of concern over Hong Kong amending its fugitive law and claiming it would affect the SAR's business environment, says Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah.

He spoke hours after the US-China Economy and Security Review Commission said that the amendment bill, if passed, could create serious risks for US security and economic interests in Hong Kong.

Among other things it stood to violate key provisions of the US-Hong Kong Policy Act, which guarantees the SAR status as a separate customs territory from the mainland.

Passing the amendment, it said, "may provide grounds for the United States to reexamine important elements of its current relationship with Hong Kong, as outlined in the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992."

The continuation of all treaties between the United States and Hong Kong, including the mutual extradition treaty and the encouragement of US business to continue operating in the SAR - guaranteed by the act - could be stopped by the US president, the commission noted.

It was concerned a revised fugitive law could allow Beijing to pressure the SAR "to extradite US citizens under false pretenses."

It also perceived a "heightened potential risk of extradition" for US Navy personnel as American warships stopped over in Hong Kong. So "the United States could consider alternative ports for rest and replenishment in the region."

But Yau responded by saying a revised fugitive law should not impact the SAR's business environment.

The commission "might have gone too far" with that suggestion, Yau said, as it had by saying the interests of other countries could be affected.

Yau added that the US concerns showed a need by the administration to explain the bill and discuss it with different sectors and so he hoped the Legislative Council Bills Committee would start discussing it as soon as possible.

Legislator James To Kun-sun said the commission report rang an alarm bell for Hong Kong as "the US might, with its own law, cause a negative influence to Hong Kong's unique status."

But legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the US concern was unnecessary. For example, Beijing did not prosecute any American due to the Sino-US trade war.

In a rare move, meanwhile, the International Chamber of Commerce-Hong Kong sent a letter to all 69 legislators to express opposition to the amendment.

The chamber said it was disappointed that the amendment, given its importance, was only allowed a short time for consultation, and it found the exclusion of nine white-collar crimes from extradition initiation not enough.

The crux was that Hong Kong might not grow further as a major international business center, so a halt to the legislative process was needed pending full-scale consultations.

Many members of the chamber are from big corporations, such as chairman Lee Jark-pui, who is the non-executive director of Lippo. Other members of its executive committee are from entities such as Bank of East Asia and YF Life Insurance.

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