Deal on the transfer of suspects proves elusive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 February, 2003, 12:00am

The arrest of the alleged hitman in the Luk Yu Tea House murder has refocused attention on the lack of an agreement between Hong Kong and the mainland for transferring suspects, despite years of discussion.

The issue of rendition first aroused interest late in 1998 when gang boss Cheung Tze-keung, nicknamed 'Big Spender', was tried and executed on the mainland for crimes committed partly in Hong Kong. Since then the Security Bureau has held eight rounds of discussions with mainland authorities but there is still no agreement on rendition.

Legal experts have said the lack of an agreement could be contrary to the rule of law principle that accused people should know what is likely to happen to them when they are arrested.

A Security Bureau spokeswoman said arrangements for the transfer of fugitives were still a policy objective, but there was no timetable on when an agreement could be expected. 'Because of the very significant differences in the legal systems of the two places, the discussions have to proceed with great care. Both sides aim to complete the discussions as soon as possible.'

The bureau had initially aimed to complete the discussions by 2000.

Roda Mushkat, head of the University of Hong Kong's law department and a member of the sub-committee studying rendition, said any agreement with the mainland would be contingent on a guarantee being given that suspects would be given a fair trial, in accordance with international standards.

'Both executive and judicial authorities should refuse extradition where there is a real risk that the fugitive's human rights will be violated in the requesting state,' Professor Mushkat wrote in a paper on the issue.

Michael Davis, of City University, said the main difficulty the government faced was the frequent use of the death penalty on the mainland.

Professor Davis said the suspect in the Luk Yu murder, Yang Wen, could be tried on the mainland under its 'long arm jurisdiction', which gives it extraterritorial power over Chinese nationals.

Legal sector legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said the government had kept information on its negotiations with mainland authorities under wraps and it was unclear whether the bottom line of a fair trial assurance had been set.