Two senior mainland Chinese officials voiced support for a contentious extradition bill in Hong Kong on Saturday, echoing the local government that it was urgently needed to close legal loopholes and bring justice to the victims of crime. Zhang Yong, vice-chairman of the Basic Law Committee, and Chen Dong, deputy director of Beijing’s liaison office in the city, made the remarks at a forum celebrating the 29th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. The bill would amend existing laws to allow transfers on a case-by-case basis to all jurisdictions that the city is yet to sign an extradition deal with, including Taiwan and the mainland. Top Hong Kong officials have stressed the urgency to pass the law, claiming it is needed to allow the transfer of Chan Tong-kai from the city to Taiwan, where he is wanted for killing his girlfriend. But the bill has stalled in the Legislative Council amid pan-democrat filibusters. Opponents of the bill worry about unfair trials and a lack of human rights protections north of the border. Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets last month to call for the scrapping of the proposal. “My stance is clear. I support the government proposal,” Zhang said before the forum started. “It not only ought to be done, but also ought to be done soon. We should not only do it today, but also continue to do it in the future.” Zhang cited two reasons, including that Taiwan was considered part of China. “Article 95 of the Basic Law clearly provides that Hong Kong can maintain juridical relations with other parts of the country and they may render assistance to each other,” Zhang said, adding that the scope of the clause included Taiwan. “This article has been in place for 29 years, but Hong Kong has yet to establish an effective system of judicial assistance in criminal cases with the mainland, Macau and Taiwan ... Is this normal?” he said. Zhang’s second reason was the “practical need” to transfer Chan to Taiwan. At the same forum, Chen of the liaison office broke the authority’s silence on the controversy, which has been unfolding for almost two months. “The proposal is urgently needed and supported by a sufficient legal basis,” Chen said. I believe we all agree that Hong Kong should be a ‘shopping paradise’, instead of a ‘fugitive paradise’ Chen Dong, deputy director of the liaison office “On the one hand, [the proposal] can achieve justice for the victims, close a loophole in the existing laws and protect Hong Kong from turning into a fugitive haven. I believe we all agree that Hong Kong should be a ‘shopping paradise’, instead of a ‘fugitive paradise’.” “On the other hand, [the proposal] can defend the core value of the rule of law, and improve Hong Kong’s image in this respect,” Chen said. Chen added that, under the principle of “one country two systems”, Hong Kong and the mainland should not only respect differences in their legal systems and jurisdictions, but also strengthen mutual legal assistance. “[China’s policy to] comprehensively implement the rule of law has made great achievements and drawn the world’s attention,” he said. What next for Hong Kong’s problematic extradition bill? Professor Lau Siu-kai, a vice-chairman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said the government proposal was needed to defend China’s national security by closing two loopholes. “One is that Hong Kong is short of a national security law, and the other is that the city has been a refuge or a springboard for fugitives fleeing mainland China,” he said. “Hong Kong should have closed these loopholes a long time ago. If the city remains a threat to China’s national security, the future of one country, two systems can’t be bright.” Zhang’s views were at odds with a member of the Basic Law Committee, legal academic Albert Chen Hung-yee, who said local officials should give “serious consideration” to retaining the right to refuse to hand over Hongkongers to mainland China and try the suspects locally for crimes allegedly committed across the border.