Civic Party weighs into extradition row with plan to allow Hong Kong courts to try murder suspects for crimes committed abroad
- Pan-democrats’ plan a response to government’s controversial bid to transfer fugitives to non-extradition jurisdictions
- But fears are expressed over retroactive nature of amendment
A group of lawmakers have proposed giving the city’s courts the right to hear murder cases involving Hong Kong suspects abroad – but some fear the plan would come at too great a cost to the justice system.
The Civic Party laid out its idea as it stepped up the fight against the government’s controversial bid to transfer fugitives to jurisdictions the city does not have an extradition agreement with.
Detailing their counterproposal on Thursday, the party’s leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said it could save the government from having to push ahead with its plan.
Yeung said the party, which has the backing of other pan-democrats, would move a private member’s bill amending the law, and it would apply retroactively.
The government’s proposal and the Civic Party’s response have been motivated by a case involving Hongkonger Chan Tong-kai, 20, who is wanted in Taiwan in connection with the death of his pregnant girlfriend in Taipei last year.
Chan, who will be sentenced for money laundering on Monday, cannot be extradited to the self-ruled island, and the government had wanted to plug that loophole by July, because Chan has spent the past year behind bars and may well have been released by then.
But to get the private member’s bill passed, the pan-democrats would need the support of both the geographical and functional constituencies, which the pro-establishment camp dominates.
And there are concerns over the implied retroactivity of the amendment.
Veteran criminal lawyer Stephen Hung Wan-shun, and law professor Simon Young of the University of Hong Kong, both expressed reservations.
“An analogy would be extending the offence of drink-driving to impairment by drugs,” Young said. “You could not apply it retrospectively and say though you were not intoxicated by alcohol at the time, but by drugs, you are now guilty of an offence.”
Their concerns were echoed by pro-establishment lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding.
“Their proposal could introduce a drastic change to our criminal justice system just to introduce retrospective effect,” Chow said. “I’m afraid the cost is far greater than the benefit – it’s simply not practical.”
The Civic Party’s plan, if adopted as an alternative, would effectively see the scope of the government’s proposed fugitive transfers narrow from a list of 39 offences to just murder or manslaughter.
Hong Kong’s proposed fugitive law allowing transfer of suspects to mainland China ‘needs cut-off date for past cases’
The government has introduced amendments to the Fugitives Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistances in Criminal Matters Ordinance to allow a case-by-case approach for extradition requests from jurisdictions that do not have a treaty with Hong Kong, including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.
Yeung said it is precisely because of the urgency that the government should first focus on bringing Chan to face justice in Hong Kong, instead of seeking to a blanket amendment on extradition arrangements.
“Our bill is not complicated at all, with only two clauses and if the government is willing to back it up, the legislation could be completed in weeks,” Yeung said.
He also stressed they are “not creating a new offence of murder”.
“We’re just extending the offence beyond Hong Kong, so there’s nothing new,” he said.