'Massive backing' for change

Top News | Jane Cheung 10 Jun 2019

Over 700,000 people signed a petition supporting the fugitive amendment bill, according to an alliance.

Wong Ying-ho, convener of the joint petition Safeguard Hong Kong, said by noon yesterday more than 700,000 people - using their real names and Hong Kong ID number - signed the online petition.

About 20 members of the group handed the signatures to undersecretary for security Sonny Au Chi-kwong outside the Tamar government headquarters yesterday.

"Safeguard justice, secure the rule of law. Hong Kong is not a paradise for fugitives," the group chanted. "The fact that we've collected over 700,000 signatures in less than two months says that the public wishes the government to plug the legal loophole to protect our judicial system."

Wong added: "Many citizens have not read about the bill and don't fully understand it and the opposing parties exaggerated the impact of the amendment bill."

He said the bill does not affect 99.99 percent of people and called for those against the bill to "return to their senses."

Meanwhile, Albert Chen Hung-yee, a legal scholar from the University of Hong Kong and Basic Law Committee member who previously cast doubt over the amendment, said the government's latest proposal is "acceptable."

Speaking on a radio program, he said there are clauses in the amendment bill to guard against political prosecution and believes the central government would not easily request renditions.

"Even if it's a politically sensitive case raised by the mainland, the SAR courts will review it if it involves political persecution," he said.

"I believe Beijing would not make an application lightly, as it does not want a Hong Kong court to potentially rule that the mainland wants to politically persecute people."

Chan said some people are worried that Beijing would use other offenses to apply for rendition of Hongkongers with a certain political stance.

But Chan said the latest proposal covers clear and comprehensive terms with many case studies for future references, adding that if the local court thinks a person would not be put under fair trial after rendition, it could reject the application.

Chan previously suggested allowing Hong Kong courts to handle all trials regarding Hong Kong permanent residents, but yesterday he said that would be challenging to achieve.

"For example, it would involve a very massive scope of law amendments - currently, Hong Kong courts only handle criminal cases that happen in the territory."

Former lawmaker Miriam Lau Kin-yee, who used to chair the Legislative Council House Committee, said at City Forum yesterday that she hopes the government can assure people that their human rights would be protected.

"The revision to lift the rendition requirement for crimes carrying a minimum sentence of seven years in jail was not a small amendment at all," she said.

"When the bill is discussed in the chamber by all lawmakers, I hope the government can give more confidence to our people and make an oral promise in terms of human rights protection, which could be a major consideration factor in future cases."

Former Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie said the government has allowed sufficient discussion of the bill, but its intention has been twisted by some people.

"I have full confidence that local judges will not face any intervention in handling rendition applications," she said.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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