Justice on trial

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 November, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 November, 1999, 12:00am

THE arrest and forced removal of Hong Kong resident Wu Man from Thailand - without any apparent formal extradition procedures being followed - to Guangzhou, raises worrying questions about the actions of authorities in all three jurisdictions.

Coming in the wake of the controversy over the mainland trial and execution of infamous kidnapper 'Big Spender' Cheung Tze-keung, this case will arouse fears that once again the legal autonomy of the SAR is being ceded to the mainland.

As our investigation today reveals, Bangkok police are believed to have handed Wu over to Public Security Bureau officers without a formal extradition hearing being held.

That is one of the most worrying aspects of this case: an individual not being given the opportunity to fight his forced removal to a jurisdiction where the procedural justice system is often swift and arbitrary.

The Thai media, lawyers, human rights activists and lawmakers should be alarmed.

Legislators in the SAR are rightly worried that Wu's treatment could set a dark precedent. Concerns were already raised by the Government's failure to seek the extradition of Cheung after he was arrested on the mainland, and this episode may heighten perceptions that Hong Kong authorities are content to let their counterparts over the border take action against suspects whom they do not have evidence to convict under SAR law.

Unfortunately, this case is unlikely to cause any widespread outcry, simply because of Wu's alleged involvement with the criminal organisation led by Cheung.

But it would be wrong to remain silent because of Wu's background. There is an important legal and human rights principle at stake. Political activists or religious practitioners, such as members of the Falun Gong movement, which is banned on the mainland, could be those next picked up while travelling overseas.

More facts need to be urgently disclosed by the three governments involved in this disturbing case. It may be that all actions followed proper procedure perfectly. If so, those procedures should be made public. It is time for the Thai police and Foreign Ministry, the SAR Security Bureau and Guangzhou police to explain their actions.