Are you an expat living in Hong Kong? Or maybe you have a loved one who is? Is visiting the Pearl of Orient on your bucket list? Or perhaps you are just a kindred soul who cares about Hong Kong and its people? If your answer is “yes” to one or more of those questions, this is a video for you. Hi, I am Vickie, a Hong Kong lawyer and a spokesperson of the Progressive Lawyers Group. In February of this year, the Hong Kong government proposed amendments to the city’s extradition laws Under the government’s proposal, anyone in Hong Kong – whether visitor or resident – can become a subject of extradition to any jurisdiction in the world including places that have poor human rights records and/or dubious legal systems. What that means is that a foreign jurisdiction can request the Hong Kong government to arrest and send back a suspect who has entered Hong Kong to face criminal trial in the requesting jurisdiction Sounds legit, right? I mean, what’s wrong with sending a person back to the place where he/she is a criminal suspect to stand trial? I hope the answer is that easy, but it’s not. If you are from a jurisdiction that has a robust legal system that upholds the rule of laws, then you are very lucky. Unfortunately, there are people who come to Hong Kong from jurisdictions that have a legal system that leaves a lot to desire for. We are particularly worried about what that means for Hong Kong when China is the jurisdiction that requests for an extradition As you may already know, Hong Kong is a SAR of China and is geographically situated just a door step away from the rest of the Mainland. What is very troubling is that, judging from China’s track records, there may be a real prospect of China using the backdoor that is opened by the Government’s proposed amendments to persecute dissidents, political activists, “foreign security threats” or simply anyone the Chinese government perceives as being an eye-sore. And Gosh, do they have lots of eye-sores! You may think, “What does that have to do with me? I have never committed a crime in China. Heck, I have never even set foot in it!” Well, you would be right to have that line of thinking if you are speaking of a place that has laws that don’t extend beyond its national boundaries. But the bad news is, China is not such a place. Under the Chinese criminal law, a foreigner can commit a Chinese criminal offence even if the act in question is committed outside of China. China WILL have jurisdiction over such an act even if it amounts to a criminal offence in the place where the act is done, provided the same act also amount to a criminal offence that carries a punishment of not less than 3 years imprisonment in China. That means, even if you are a foreign national who resides somewhere on the other side of the globe, China can still request the jurisdiction that you are in to send you to China to stand trial. Under its current laws, Hong Kong cannot extradite a person suspected of having committed a Chinese criminal offence to China because: (1) Hong Kong and China have separate legal jurisdictions under the principle of “one country, two systems”; and (2) Hong Kong does not have an existing extradition treaty with mainland China. But all that will change with the passing of the government’s proposed amendments that enables Hong Kong to extradite a suspect to China under its own laws. What’s wrong with standing trial in China, you may ask? What’s the big fuss? For a starter, it may help for you to know that the conviction rate in Chinese courts was 99.9% in 2016 according to the Telegraph. Now, if you go search Google for travel information on China, you will see the US government has issued warning about the possibility of laws being arbitrarily enforced in China. Canada, too, has issued a similar warning. Perhaps, it is no surprise that the Canadian government would issue such warning when 2 Canadian citizens have been thrust into the global limelight because of their arrests by the Chinese government following the arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, by the Canadian government in Vancouver, Canada. Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a business consultant, both Canadian citizens living in China, have been detained by the Chinese government for the allegation of espionage since December 2018. Since their arrests, the whereabout of Kovrig and Spavor has been a mystery since they are being remanded and confined in secret detention centers. They have been denied access to lawyers and visits from their families. The Canadian government has condemned the detention of the two men as being “arbitrary and politically motivated”. As you can see, the right to fair trial is not something that is guaranteed by the Chinese government. If you find what I have been telling you so far quite worrying, you are not alone. On 24 May, the European Union Office in Hong Kong mounted a formal diplomatic protest against the Hong Kong government’s proposed amendments. On the same day, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers from the United States wrote to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to warn her about the irreparable damage the proposed amendments will have on rights and liberty of business people, journalists, and foreign nationals transiting, visiting, or residing in Hong Kong. On 30 May, the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement to voice their concerns for the rights and liberty of their citizens in Hong Kong that may become compromised by the passing of the proposed amendments You would think that for something that is so drastic and controversial, the government would have conducted a thorough public consultation, right? Well, yes, the government did conduct a publication consultation, but guess how long the consultation period was? 3 months? 6 months? A year? Nope, he public consultation period lasted merely 20 days. Curiously short when most public consultations last for months! Those proposed amendments are now tabled in the Legislative Council for 2nd reading Since the proposed amendments take only a simple majority of votes to pass, In a legislature that has pro-government legislators in the majority, It is highly likely that they will pass in the next month or two unless the government withdraws its bill. There has been rhetorics from the amendments’ supporters about the Hong Kong courts playing the role of “gatekeepers” after the proposed amendments have passed They claimed that extradition hearing before the Hong Kong courts, which is procedural in nature, can effectively prevent potential human rights abuses by foreign governments to people who are being extradited. In that regard, the current chairperson of the Hong Kong Bar Association(HKBA) and 11 of his predecessors, have issued a joint statement to voice their concerns The HKBA is the only professional organisation of barristers in Hong Kong I mean, who is better suited to comment on legal matters than folks who are legally trained and practice law for a living? In their joint statement, these veteran lawyers stressed that it is clearly misleading to say that the Hong Kong courts will be an effective gatekeeper in extradition cases under the proposed amendments. Pausing here, you may wonder, “what really is the role of the Hong Kong courts under the proposed amendments?” Under the proposed amendments, the role of the courts is procedural and limited to assessing whether there is a prima facie case against a suspect based on the case papers provided by the requesting jurisdiction. The courts have no power to refuse extradition on grounds of poor human rights records or unfair legal system of a requesting jurisdiction. And no, the Hong Kong courts will not have authority to put a suspect on trial and hear his/her evidence to determine the issue of guilt. Phew, I have said quite a bit just now, haven’t I? If you make it this far, thanks for bearing with me. Okay, you have now had a crash course on the Hong Kong government’s proposed amendments. What next? There is certainly something you can do to help! First of all, if you find this video helpful, please please please share it with those you know! Secondly, there is going to be a protest against the proposed amendments on June 9, which is expected to see a massive turnout. If you are in Hong Kong on June 9, please consider joining the protest to get your voice heard! By the way things go, the proposed amendments are likely to be passed by the legislature towards the end of June. Stay tuned for the latest updates! Thanks for watching and do leave us your comment!