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More than A Million Demonstrate against Extradition Law

Critics said it will be terrible blow to Hong Kong’s rule of law, stability, and security

The protester holds a sign with during the demonstration against a new extradition law in Hong Kong on June 9, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

The Government of Hong Kong is planning a law that will allow extraditions to China. Bar associations and human rights activists warn against the arbitrariness of these laws. Ninety-nine percent of political dissidents would be extradited.

This article was updated on June 12, 2019.

At the biggest demonstration in years, more than a million of Hong Kong residents have demonstrated against the government’s plans for extradition law. The organisers estimated the number of participants at more than one million. According to the police, 153,000 people gathered at the starting point of the protest march. But it did not count the people who joined on the way. The South China Morning Post estimated the number of demonstrators at half a million.

Protesters held up signs with slogans like “No extradition to China” or “Extradited to China, gone forever”. Lawyers’ associations, human rights activists and foreign governments are concerned about the project. The new law would allow the authorities to extradite suspects to the People’s Republic at the request of Chinese authorities.

Critics emphasise that the justice system in China is not independent, does not conform to international standards, and is politically controlled. According to the estimated 99 percent of the dissidents on trial would be convicted. Amnesty International warned that those extradited in China are under the threat of “torture, ill-treatment and unfair trials”. China’s Communist Party regularly make “legitimate”, apolitical charges “to persecute and imprison peaceful activists, human rights defenders, and those who reject government policies.” The law is a “powerful tool” to intimidate critics.

“Terrible blow” against Hong Kong’s rule of law?

In response to popular opposition, Carrie Lam’s Beijing-loyal government had already changed the law. So only should be allowed to be extradited, who committed a serious crime. The expected sentence must be seven and not three years as originally planned. Some offenses, such as tax or financial offenses, have been removed. However, the Hong Kong authorities defended the plan by pointing out that loopholes in the law needed to be filled. Dissidents and critics of China must not be extradited.

There is also concern that the law undermines Hong Kong’s position as an Asian business and financial capital. Hong Kong’s last British Governor, Chris Patten, warned that the extradition law would be “the worst” decision Hong Kong has suffered since returning to China in 1997. In a video message, Patten spoke of a “terrible blow” to Hong Kong’s rule of law, stability, security and position as a major international trading hub.

Human rights groups also point out that the two UN conventions on civil rights and torture, to which Hong Kong is bound, actually prohibited the transfer of people to countries where torture and ill-treatment threatened. The US or Canada have also expressed their concerns. They fear that British or Canadian citizens could be affected by the new extradition law in Hong Kong.

The US Congressional Economic and Security Commission’s commission on relations with China warned that the bill could “pose a serious threat to US national security and its economic interests in Hong Kong.” Canada is also concerned because two of its citizens have recently been arrested under tramped espionage charges in China. The Canadian government said that it was Chinese Communist Party’s response to the arrest, Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer and daughter of the founder of telecom giant Huawei, in Canada, whom the US had requested. Mr Meng is charged with bank fraud in violation of sanctions against Iran.

The former British Crown Colony has been run autonomously by an unelected government since its return in 1997 to China under the principle of “one country, two systems” as its own territory. The seven million inhabitants of today’s Chinese Special Administrative Region enjoy greater political freedom than people in the People’s Republic, including the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and assembly.

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