We are writing to request Her Majesty's Government demand the Hong Kong Legislative Council retract the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance ("Extradition Bill"), which is scheduled to go through to its 2nd and 3rd readings on 12th June.
Under the current law, the judicial system in the territory is largely independent. Where an individual has been accused of breaching the laws of another country, that accused cannot be extradited by the Hong Kong Government without proper proceedings.
We are therefore greatly concerned that the Government of the Peoples Republic of China may in future be able to exert influence over Hong Kong and the rights and freedoms of individuals including foreign nationals through the use of the Extradition Bill. Under the amended law, an accused can be extradited to any non contracting country (including China) without due process.
The amendment could also have a major impact on the credibility of the independence of the Hong Kong legal system that has been based on Common Law, and to the freedom of British citizens who live in or outside of Hong Kong. Chinese criminal law applies beyond the boundaries of China. Therefore, a foreign citizen could commit an offence under Chinese law even if they are not located in China and/or has never been to China. If the Bill is passed, China can request the Hong Kong Government arrest this citizen the moment they set foot in Hong Kong and send them to mainland China for trial.
It can also be used against dissidents or those critical of the Chinese Government, even if such criticism were made overseas. This does not only affect the freedom of speech of the citizens of Hong Kong, but also to those of the United Kingdom. British citizens can be arrested without trial when they enter Hong Kong only because they had criticised the Chinese Government in the United Kingdom.
The amendment can affect the safety of British citizens in Hong Kong, particularly where, for example, the Chinese government undertakes large-scale anti corruption measures. There have been reports of businessmen being charged for corruption or breaches of accounting rules (without sufficient evidence) who were subsequently made bankrupt. Under the new law, they would lose the protection of the Hong Kong legal system.
The Basic Law in Hong Kong guaranteed the freedom of press and fair trial under the protection of the Hong Kong judicial legal system. It is guaranteed by the British Government under the Sino British Joint Declaration 1984.
When the British National (Overseas) holders demanded their citizenship automatically be converted to British Citizenship, the British Government had rejected it on the grounds of honouring the principles of the Joint Declaration. It is now important for the British Government to show its support of the HK citizens by ensuring that the key principles of the Basic Law continue to be upheld.
The Hong Kong Government is determined that the amendments to the legislation on extradition be passed before the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong on 1st July 2019. We request HM Government stand up at this crucial time and join the HK lawyers in protesting against the long arm of the Extradition Bill.