Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam: I never handed over a fugitive to mainland China against US wishes
City leader’s office rebuts allegation in State Department report that she rejected its extradition request ‘at the behest’ of the central government last October
Hong Kong’s leader has categorically denied ever surrendering any fugitive to mainland China, strongly objecting to the United States government’s allegation that she did so on Beijing’s orders last year.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s office released a statement on Thursday night, expressing “deep regret” over the US State Department’s claim on Tuesday in its annual report that she had turned down an extradition request “at the behest” of the central government last October.
The report did not give details of the case, but stated that a detainee was released into “central government custody” on the basis that Beijing was “pursuing a separate criminal action”.
“This was the first such instance since 1997,” it said of the refusal. “The central government has provided no information as to the disposition of its own case against the individual.”
“Currently, there is no surrender of fugitive offenders arrangement between [Hong Kong] and the mainland,” her office said. “Therefore, no surrender of a fugitive has ever been made to the mainland. The [Hong Kong] government deals with any movement of persons in and out of Hong Kong in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong.”
The fugitive in question was identified as 28-year-old Chinese hacker Iat Hong by US prosecutors in a separate, high-profile New York bribery investigation into former Hong Kong home affairs minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping.
Hong, a Macau resident, was arrested in Hong Kong on Christmas Day in 2016. He was found to have hacked the computer databases of unnamed US law firms and to have used ill-gotten information with two accomplices to gain more than US$4 million from stock trading in 2014 and 2015.
Last May, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered Hong to repay US$462,471 and to pay a fine exceeding US$1.38 million. His mother, Sou Cheng Lai, was named in SEC documents as a relief defendant – one who has received ill-gotten funds or assets – and told to return “unlawful proceeds in her possession resulting from defendant Hong’s illicit trading”.
Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a member of Lam’s top advisory body, the Executive Council, said it would be appropriate for local authorities to discuss the US request with Beijing’s Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong.
“It is hard for us to judge the level of public interest,” she added.
Ip said the bilateral agreement between the US and Hong Kong – under which the city has generally honoured requests for extradition – also allowed it to say no if it concerned nationals whose crimes were related to matters of essential public interest, defence or foreign affairs.
But Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun argued the US should have been given a fuller explanation as to why the extradition request was rejected.
“As a member of the agreement, with a long history of cooperation ... if possible, you should tell them the reasons,” To said on a radio programme with Ip.
He urged Beijing not to exert pressure on Hong Kong during a time of heightened tensions in Sino-US relations.