Fugitive bill was Lam's idea

Local | Staff reporter 23 Dec 2019

The fugitive bill was initiated by the Lam administration, contrary to a Reuters report that said Beijing was behind it, the chief executive's office says.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's office insists the bill was initiated, introduced and taken forward by her administration, while Beijing respected Lam's view and supported her all the way.

The comment came after Reuters reported that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection gave impetus to facilitating extradition of fugitives from Hong Kong to the mainland back in 2017, following the abduction of mainland tycoon Xiao Jianhua.

The commission is the Communist Party's powerful internal anti-corruption body, which has been spearheading President Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign.

Two mainland officials with knowledge of the probe told Reuters that billionaire Xiao, who lived in Hong Kong, was among the targets of CCDI investigators at the time.

Xiao was abducted on the morning of January 27, 2017, from his serviced apartment at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel.

The abduction was assumed by most people here to have been the work of mainland agents. Xiao is under house arrest in a town near Shanghai, and is expected to be brought to trial for stock price manipulation and bribery.

Frustrated at the lack of legal means to get their hands on Xiao, the two officials said, the CCDI that same year began pressing mainland officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs on the urgent need for an extradition arrangement.

The CCDI wanted a less politically damaging method than abducting fugitive mainlanders in Hong Kong, the officials said.

The two sides failed to strike a deal, but the killing of a Hong Kong girl by her boyfriend in Taiwan would provide a new opening.

Even before Xiao's case, the disappearance of five Causeway Bay booksellers had already sparked public outrage.

One of them, Lee Bo, was taken from Hong Kong, although he denied it after he returned to the city.

Hong Kong officials revealed in May 2016 they were in discussions with Beijing over formal extradition procedures. The talks failed, according to lawyers involved, because Beijing was unwilling to accept human rights and legal safeguards.

While on a trip to Taiwan in 2018, Hongkonger Chan Tung-kai allegedly strangled his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing, then returned home and confessed. With no extradition deal with Taiwan, Lam argued the only way to send him back for trial was a new law that would also enable criminal suspects to be sent to the mainland.

Public anger over the bill came to a head on June 11 this year, the eve of its second reading.

Pro-Beijing lawmakers had the numbers if the bill came to a vote. That day, protesters began surrounding the Legislative Council to block the session.

Lam crossed into Shenzhen to propose to Vice Premier Han Zheng the legislation be suspended. After consulting with other leaders in Beijing, Han agreed.

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