The Corner for Political & Business Views — Carefree Fugitives Looking to the North from Hong Kong
The HKSAR government has recently put forward a proposal to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, which allows the extradition of fugitives in a one-off, case-based manner. The original intention was to resolve the recent murder case that involves a Hong Kong man who is suspected of killing her girlfriend in Taiwan. Yet, the proposal has aroused much public concern. Many worry that the amendment would result in weakened autonomy. Disagreement among lawmakers over this issue has also led to two self-claimed legitimate Bills Committee meetings in LegCo.
It is the opinion of the opposition camp that the judicial system of the mainland China is defective. And they worry that the amendment would mean an easy excuse for the Chinese government to extradite dissidents from Hong Kong to mainland, leading to more people being “abducted” or “compelled to plead guilty” as well as unjust trials.
I, however, think the key to the problem is whether we respect a country and the law and legal system of that region. A young US citizen, for instance, was sentenced to six strokes of the cane in Singapore for his graffiti vandalism in 1993. In spite of Bill Clinton’s appeal, the sentence was reduced only from six to four strokes and the US government could not help but accept it. This is a very good example of respecting the independence of the legal system of a country and complying with it.
The punishment for the same crime could vary greatly in different countries. For instance, trading and using marijuana is now legal in the US; yet, it is illegal in Hong Kong and many countries, and offenders will be arrested and punished. In the Philippines, the sentence for drug smuggling could be life imprisonment and in Malaysia, death penalty. Local governments are usually determined to punish criminals according to their laws and there is nothing unusual about this. Local residents and expats are both subject to legal sanctions if they break the law. Hence, why should we fear the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance being misused when the legal system of Hong Kong is intact and independent?
Besides, it is commonly known that there is a “haven” in Hong Kong, where mainlanders who are suspected of breaking the law can hide and look to the north from a distance. Think about it: these people seek shelter in Hong Kong, which is a territory of China, and they wish they can avoid the punishment here and continue to participate in or manipulate their illegal deeds. Is it just?
The coverage of a bill is extensive and the content complicated. Most citizens in Hong Kong would find it difficult to fully understand the details. It is my opinion that the government should first make a thorough investigation of the incidents related to Xiao Jianhua and Causeway Bay Books to eliminate the doubts of the public regarding one country, two systems being threatened, and Chinese officials enforcing laws across the boundary. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the rights of Hong Kong people being protected.
Chairman of Asia Allied Infrastructure
(This is a Chinese-to-English translation by Corporate Communications Department. The original article has been published in Headline Daily on 20 May 2019.)
By Mr. Pang Yat Ting, Dominic