Law Society weighs in on extradition debate

The Law Society has made an 11-page submission calling on the government to shelve the fugitive law amendment.

Phoenix Un

Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Law Society has made an 11-page submission calling on the government to shelve the fugitive law amendment.

This follows the Bar Association's strong opposition to the amendment.

The society warned the amendment would have far-reaching and important implications, so there should be comprehensive review of the current extradition laws and extensive consultations.

The fact that the mainland had signed but not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also exacerbated people's concern about the prospect of being extradited there, as "the legal amendment could be conveniently be used for political persecution and suppress freedom of speech."

The society said local courts could not act as effective gatekeepers under current fugitive laws as documents in support of extradition could be submitted without further proof and evidence by the defense could not be offered as a counterargument.

The society suggested committal proceedings be introduced, and that "mandatory procedural requirements are laid down for both the prosecution and the defense to comply with," adding the defense be allowed to "give evidence and call evidence."

The society suggested amending the Criminal Jurisdiction Ordinance to include murder and manslaughter, so that local courts "could have extra-territorial jurisdictions to try a Hong Kong person who has committed a serious crime overseas in Hong Kong."

This extension of jurisdiction would apply to the Taiwanese murder case by including an express provision for applicability to the case.

The chief executive would need to issue a certificate to initiate the extradition arrangement before handing it to the court, but the society said since the chief executive is politically appointed such a certificate is hardly a safeguard.

The society suggested, in order to enhance transparency, that the chief executive clearly list out the criteria for extradition. For example, that the offense is not political in nature and that the transfer request should not be civil disputes disguised as criminal process.

The society criticized the exemption of nine white-collar crimes from the item of offenses covered by surrender arrangement as it has "not been provided with any legal justification as to why those nine offenses currently appearing in the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance are not included in the bill itself."

Meanwhile, the Professional Teachers' Union issued the results of a survey of 368 of their members between May 28 and June 3, with 81 percent disagreeing with the amendment and 80 percent demanding the government withdraw the bill.

The union called on members to join Sunday's amendment protest.