Key foreign envoys to Hong Kong on Monday raised the stakes in their opposition to the city’s controversial extradition bill, with some saying they would consult their governments on what action to take if the local administration insisted on pushing it through the legislature. After a closed-door lunch attended by more than 30 consuls general and other consular representatives, along with 21 lawmakers, at the Legislative Council, one opposition politician quoted some diplomats as saying a unilateral review of their governments’ bilateral relations with Hong Kong was an option, but others did not confirm this. Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said some envoys had expressed support for the bill, but she declined to identify them. The foreign envoys took it a step further after European Union officials last week made a formal representation to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor against her government’s planned changes to extradition laws, which would allow suspects to be handed over to authorities in mainland China and other jurisdictions with which the city has no fugitive transfer agreement. I think the government should do a better job explaining [its justification for the bill] Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party and one of Lam’s advisers in the Executive Council, said no diplomats had voiced support for the bill. “Some were worried whether human rights protections under the amendments were too weak, because the requests would not be vetted by Legco,” Ip said. The former security minister said some diplomats felt the views of the international business community were not being valued by the government. “I think the government should do a better job explaining [its justification for the bill],” Ip said. Dennis Kwok, a Civic Party lawmaker, cited EU representatives and at least five other foreign countries, including Germany and the United States, expressing deep concerns over the bill and the government’s decision to bypass scrutiny by a bills committee. The government is skipping the committee stage because of an unbreakable deadlock between rival pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps over who should chair it. Some of the diplomats, according to Kwok, said they would seek further direction from their countries’ foreign offices on how to respond to the Hong Kong government’s doubling down on the bill. “They expect two possible responses,” Kwok said. “One is to issue a démarche stating their opposition and the other is to openly say they will unilaterally review whether to maintain bilateral relations with Hong Kong.” Other pan-democratic lawmakers who attended the gathering did not recall such comments. Kwok and the Democratic Party’s Lam Cheuk-ting said the diplomats highlighted specific concerns over the bill, including inadequate legal protections and the unlikeliness of the city’s leader to refuse Beijing’s requests for fugitive transfers. Hong Kong leader stakes credibility on extradition bill – but impasse continues “A consul general from a non-Western country said the proposed arrangement would affect Hong Kong’s status as an international finance centre and the city’s business environment,” the democrat lawmaker said. “The diplomats also said it would be totally unacceptable, when I asked them how their countries would respond when one day Beijing wants one of their nationals to be sent across the border from Hong Kong.” Lee, whose party is the government’s biggest ally in Legco, contradicted Ip and insisted some envoys did support the bill. “There were different views. I heard representatives who clearly showed their support for this bill,” Lee said. “On the other hand, I did hear concerns from international community.” Lee did not specify which and how many foreign diplomats supported the bill, but noted that those who backed it agreed it was meant to thwart serious crime. Lee said the envoys could file submissions to Legco’s security panel, which is set to hold a special meeting on the extradition bill on May 31. Among those who attended Monday’s lunch were top US envoy Kurt Tong, Dieter Lamlé of Germany and Carmen Cano, head of the EU’s office in the city – such gatherings are held by the Legislative Council’s secretariat once or twice a year. The controversy over changing Hong Kong’s extradition laws has intensified over the past week after 11 representatives from the EU handed a formal note to Lam, urging her to fine-tune the bill and build safeguards into it to ensure it would not be used as a political weapon. Reflecting the business community’s fears, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce met the city’s security chief on Monday to call for extra layers of safeguards in the bill. Russian consul general Alexander Viktorovich Kozlov said the bill was an “internal affair” and none of his country’s business. “Russia doesn’t interfere [with] Chinese internal affairs,” Kozlov said before entering Legco. “We hope China’s people, Hong Kong people, will resolve this internal issue themselves.” Earlier in the morning, 20 pan-democratic lawmakers wrote a joint letter to Lam, challenging her to a televised debate on the bill with James To Kun-sun, the bloc’s most experienced legislator. The government and the pro-democracy camp should elaborate their arguments clearly to the local people and to the world on such a significant policy issue James To, legislator Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convenor of the pan-democrats, said they hoped the debate could be held before a mass demonstration organised for June 9 by the Civil Human Rights Front. To said he accepted the bloc’s invitation to debate the issue “because I believe the government and the pro-democracy camp should elaborate on their arguments clearly to the local people and to the world on such a significant policy issue”. A spokesman from the Chief Executive’s Office rejected the challenge, saying the best venue for lawmakers to debate the bill was Legco. If Lam had accepted the challenge, it would have been the second televised debate on a political issue in Hong Kong’s history. In June 2010, then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen debated electoral reform with Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee.