Hong Kong-China extradition plans explained

A protester holding a sign reading no China extradition Image copyright AFP
Image caption Critics fear the proposed amendments will expose anyone in Hong Kong to China's flawed justice system

Hong Kong is set to push ahead with a highly controversial plan to allow extraditions to mainland China, despite mass protests

The government argues the proposed amendments will "plug the loopholes" so that the city would not be a safe haven for criminals.

But critics say those in the former British colony would be exposed to China's deeply flawed justice system, and it would lead to further erosion of the city's judicial independence.

Hundreds of thousands of people have protested against the bill, which is widely opposed.

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has refused to scrap it and is pushing for the amendments to be passed before July.

What are the changes?

The changes will allow for extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoings, such as murder and rape.

The requests will then be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hong Kong is part of China but has its own judicial system

Several commercial offences such as tax evasion have been removed from the list of extraditable offences amid concerns from the business community.

Hong Kong officials have said Hong Kong courts will have the final say whether to grant such extradition requests, and suspects accused of political and religious crimes will not be extradited.

The government has sought to reassure the public with some concessions, including promising to only hand over fugitives for offences carrying maximum sentences of at least seven years.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied against the bill

Why is this controversial?

There has been a lot of public opposition, and critics say people would be subject to arbitrary detention, unfair trial and torture under China's judicial system.

"The proposed changes to the extradition laws will put anyone in Hong Kong doing work related to the mainland at risk," said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch in a statement. "No one will be safe, including activists, human rights lawyers, journalists, and social workers."

Lam Wing Kee, a Hong Kong bookseller said he was abducted and detained in China in 2015 for selling books critical of Chinese leaders and charged with "operating a bookstore illegally".

"If I don't go, I will be extradited," Mr Lam said during a recent protest against the bill. "I don't trust the government to guarantee my safety, or the safety of any Hong Kong resident."

In late April, Mr Lam fled Hong Kong and moved to Taiwan where he was granted a temporary residency visa.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Scuffles broke out among Hong Kong lawmakers during deliberation of the controversial amendment

Who opposes the proposal in Hong Kong?

Opposition against the law is widespread, with groups from all sections of society - ranging from lawyers to schools to house wives - having voiced their criticism or started petitions against the changes.

Organisers estimate that one million people took part in a march against the bill on Sunday, although police put the figure at 240,000 at its peak.

If the organisers' estimate is confirmed as correct, it would be the largest demonstration in Hong Kong since the territory was handed over to China by the British in 1997.

Earlier this month, 3,000 lawyers, prosecutors, law students and academics marched in silence and called on the government to shelve the proposal.

Hundreds of petitions against the amendments started by university and secondary school alumni, overseas students and church groups have also appeared online.

Image copyright Anthony Kwan
Image caption Some 3,000 stage a silent march protesting against the extradition amendments

The petition from St. Francis' Canossian College - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's alma mater - has been signed by more than 1,300.

There's even one for housewives, which has collected over 6,000 signatures.

Wong Choi Fung, a mother of one living in working-class Kwun Tong district, told local media that she did this to fight for her son's future.

Some powerful business groups have said the amendments, if passed, would damage Hong Kong's competitiveness.

"The proposed changes will lead to people to reconsider whether to choose Hong Kong to be the base of operation or the regional headquarters as there is risk of their being removed to another jurisdiction which does not provide the protection they enjoy in Hong Kong," wrote the International Chamber of Commerce in a submission to the legislature.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The proposed amendments to Hong Kong's extradition laws have been met with opposition

How about internationally?

The proposal has been met with concern by several countries.

A US congressional commission said in May the proposed changes would make Hong Kong more susceptible to China's "political coercion" and further erode Hong Kong's autonomy.

Britain and Canada expressed similar views in a joint statement, adding they were concerned over the "potential effect" that the proposed changes would have on UK and Canadian citizens in Hong Kong.

The European Union has also issued a diplomatic note to Mrs Lam expressing concerns over the proposed changes to the law.

China's foreign ministry has refuted such views, calling them attempts to "politicise" the Hong Kong government proposal and interference in China's internal affairs.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Hong Kong and China - one country, two systems

Why the change now?

The latest proposal has come after a 19-year-old Hong Kong man allegedly murdered his 20-year-old pregnant girlfriend, while holidaying in Taiwan together in February last year. The man fled Taiwan and returned to Hong Kong last year.

Taiwanese officials have sought help from Hong Kong authorities to extradite the man, but Hong Kong officials say they cannot comply because of a lack of extradition agreement with Taiwan.

But the Taiwanese government has said it will not seek to extradite the murder suspect under the proposed changes, and has urged Hong Kong to handle the case separately.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Under Xi Jinping, Beijing is seeking increasing control over Hong Kong

Isn't Hong Kong part of China anyway?

A former British colony, Hong Kong is semi-autonomous under the principle of "one country, two systems" after it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The city has its own laws and its residents enjoy civil liberties unavailable to their mainland counterparts.

Hong Kong has entered into extradition agreements with 20 countries, including the UK and the US, but no such agreements have been reached with mainland China despite ongoing negotiations in the past two decades.

Critics have attributed such failures to poor legal protection for defendants under Chinese law.

Reporting by Jeff Li, BBC Chinese.

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