Hong Kong’s independent judiciary is the ultimate safeguard against extradition fears
- Extradition is neither simple nor straightforward and safeguards are in place against a miscarriage of justice, including open court hearings and the right to be heard up to Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal
The debate was also focused on the issue of extradition from Hong Kong to other places. But these arrangements would work in both directions. As several of our senior law enforcement officials have been saying, the amended legislation would enable Hong Kong to get suspects back from other jurisdictions to face justice here.
Perhaps a key misunderstanding is the idea that extradition can just happen – with no serious safeguards. In reality, it would not be so simple. The procedure can only take place where certain specific serious offences are concerned. The chief executive must approve each case.
Not least, every case must come before a committal hearing in open court in Hong Kong. The case would come before our own independent judiciary, with the press and public free to see everything. The individual concerned would have other rights, including the right to apply for a judicial review of the executive approval. And this, in turn, would come with the right to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal.
The involvement of our courts – up to the Court of Final Appeal – should be a major assurance to anyone who has doubts about the extradition proposals.
As it happens, the government recently announced two senior judicial appointments, which are subject to legislative approval. One was of Lord Jonathan Sumption, from Britain, as a non-permanent judge on the Court of Final Appeal. He is a highly respected legal authority and, until his retirement last December, had been a UK Supreme Court justice for seven years.
The appointment of Lord Sumption means Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal will have 15 non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictions (the UK, Australia and Canada). Their range of experience and expertise is considerable – from commercial to human rights law.
Officials have listened to different views of the proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition arrangements, and they have incorporated changes. Hopefully this can reassure the public that the proposal will be good for all in the community. In particular, everyone should recognise that, among the safeguards, we have an independent judiciary up to the highest level that is world class and should inspire confidence in us all.
Bernard Chan is convenor of Hong Kong's Executive Council