Beijing throws more weight behind law change

Top News | Phoenix Un 22 May 2019

Vice Premier Han Zheng has voiced support for the controversial fugitive law amendment - the highest-ranking central government official to have backed the plan so far.

This comes as the opposition in Hong Kong plans a third protest against the amendment on June 9, with organizers talking of a turnout of 300,000.

Han, who is also head of the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, met with a delegation from the Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday.

"The amendment complies with the Basic Law and helps enhance the rule of law and justice in Hong Kong," Han said at the beginning of the meeting. "Thus, the central government fully endorses the work of the SAR government."

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director, Zhang Xiaoming, and Liaison Office director Wang Zhimin had previously endorsed the SAR administration move to amend the fugitive law, which among other things will allow for some extraditions between Hong Kong and the mainland.

On that, Han also said he believed the SAR administration's efforts will ease concerns within society and eventually result in a consensus.

He also praised Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, citing her sense of responsibility.

Lam, speaking to the Executive Council, said foreign intervention in matters relating to the fugitive law amendment made it reasonable for central government authorities to speak out on the issue.

She said some foreign governments had attempted to damage the relationship between the central and SAR governments. They were even "recklessly criticizing" the mainland judicial and human rights systems, she said.

The fugitive law amendment, she went on, "has implications that affect more than a law and the local affairs of the SAR. The issue concerns one country, two systems and even the constitutional level of the Basic Law. So it's reasonable for Beijing institutions in Hong Kong and even the HKMAO in Beijing to speak out."

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu made the groundbreaking move on Monday to ask Legislative Council house committee chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king to circumvent the deadlocked bills committee stage and to resume a second reading at a full council meeting on June 12.

Lam said it was a tough decision for the SAR administration to circumvent the bills committee, but it was a responsible and decisive move by the executive branch. "This is an act for which we have simply no option in order to break the deadlock and the impasse that we have seen over the scrutiny of this particular piece of legislation," Lam said.

"Up until now I have not heard any suggestions from the non-pro-establishment members how we could resolve this deadlock."

She also said it would be "unrealistic" for some - meaning pan-democrats - to try to coerce her to withdraw the bill.

In related action, security chief Lee joined a close-door seminar of the Liberal Party to discuss the amendment.

Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan said Lee sought to dismiss concerns of the business sector about extraditions, saying many disputes were civil or commercial in nature whereas only criminal suspects stood to be transferred.

But the business sector was still concerned about the amendment, with legislator Abraham Shek Lai-him, the presiding member of the bills panel backed by the pro-establishment camp, also having doubts about the amendments.

"When the chief executive is an officer appointed by Beijing, what if Beijing asks for something?" Shek asked on a TV program.

"Could she go against it? That is a big question mark."

Meanwhile, plans for another mass protest march against the amendment by the Civil Human Rights Front continued to be laid.

The front said it had received many requests to organize a march immediately rather than wait for the annual July 1 protest event. A march in April drew 130,000 people.

phoenix.un@singtaonewscorp.com

Vice Premier Han Zheng has voiced support for the controversial fugitive law amendment --- the highest-ranking central government official to have backed the plan so far.

This comes as the opposition in the SAR plans a third protest against the amendment on June 9, with organizers talking of a turnout of 300,000.

Han, who is also head of the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, met with a delegation from the Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday.

"The amendment complies with the Basic Law and helps enhance the rule of law and justice in Hong Kong," Han said at the beginning of the meeting. "Thus, the central government fully endorses the work of the SAR government."

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director, Zhang Xiaoming, and Liaison Office director Wang Zhimin had previously endorsed the SAR administration move to amend the fugitive law, which among other things will allow for some extraditions between Hong Kong and the mainland.

On that, Han also said he believed the SAR administration's efforts will ease concerns within society and eventually result in a consensus.

He also praised Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, citing her sense of responsibility.

Lam, speaking to the Executive Council, said foreign intervention in matters relating to the fugitive law amendment made it reasonable for central government authorities to speak out on the issue.

She said some foreign governments had attempted to damage the relationship between the central and SAR governments. They were even "recklessly criticizing" the mainland judicial and human rights systems, she said.

The fugitive law amendment, she went on, "has implications that affect more than a law and the local affairs of the SAR. The issue concerns one country, two systems and even the constitutional level of the Basic Law. So it's reasonable for Beijing institutions in Hong Kong and even the HKMAO in Beijing to speak out."

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu made the groundbreaking move on Monday to ask Legislative Council House Committee chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king to circumvent the deadlocked bills committee stage and to resume a second reading at a full council meeting on June 12.

Lam said it was a tough decision for the SAR administration to circumvent the Bills Committee, but it was a responsible and decisive move by the executive branch.

"This is an act for which we have simply no option in order to break the deadlock and the impasse that we have seen over the scrutiny of this particular piece of legislation," Lam said. "Up until now I have not heard any suggestions from the non-pro-establishment members how we could resolve this deadlock."

She also said it would be "unrealistic" for some -- meaning pan-democrats -- to try to coerce her to withdraw the bill.

In related action, security chief Lee joined a close-door seminar of the Liberal Party to discuss the amendment.

Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan said Lee sought to dismiss concerns of the business sector about extraditions, saying many disputes were civil or commercial in nature whereas only criminal suspects stood to be transferred.

But the business sector was still concerned about the amendment, with legislator Abraham Shek Lai-him, the presiding member of the bills panel backed by the pro-establishment camp, also having doubts about the amendments.

"When the chief executive is an officer appointed by Beijing, what if Beijing asks for something?" Shek asked on a TV program. "Could she go against it? That is a big question mark."

Meanwhile, plans for another mass protest march against the amendment by the Civil Human Rights Front continued to be laid.

The front said it had received many requests to organize a march immediately rather than wait for the annual July 1 protest event. A march in April drew 130,000 people.

phoenix.un@singtaonewscorp.com

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