The whole of Hong Kong is shaken by the thousands of protesters who have blocked the streets to raise their voice against the recent controversial extradition bill of the country. This protest is believed to be the largest since the ‘umbrella movement’ in 2014. The protesters fear that the newly proposed law would further weaken the ‘already fragile’ semi-autonomy of Hong Kong from China. Despite the suspension of the bill on Saturday, the masses are still out there on the street.
So, why are the people of Hong Kong opposing this new extradition law? As of now, Hong Kong has agreements for extradition with 20 countries, and the proposed amendment of the extradition law will include China and Taiwan in the list. This amendment would create a legal mechanism by which individuals could be rendered from Hong Kong back to mainland China. Human rights activists view this law as a tool of ‘legalised kidnapping’ by China - which already has a notoriety of state-sponsored kidnap of both the Chinese and foreign citizens. The incident of Gui Minhuy, a Hong Kong based publisher is a perfect example - he was arrested from his home in Thailand in 2015 and held without any trial and denied access to an attorney for the whole detention period. The protesters, critics, and rights activists fear that if enacted, this law would be used against the liberal society critiquing the activities of the government. And Hong Kong would no longer be a safe harbor for freedom of expression and top rights advocacy groups.
The most worrying aspect of this draft bill is that the legislative council of Hong Kong does not have any role of overseeing the extradition process with a non-treaty state and only the chief executive of Hong Kong has the power of handling any extradition requests from non-treaty countries. There is an absence of reviewing the due process of law and human rights condition in the receiving country, i.e., right to a fair trial in the draft bill. The Beijing-backed government of Hong Kong proposing the change said that the amendment is essential to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a shelter for criminals. The government is trying to convince that the law will only affect the people accused of serious crimes, not be used against anything related to freedom of expression and other political crimes. But, it is quite certain that this argument can not convince the protesters as the dominance of China in the political climate of Hong Kong is only accelerating. And this law would give China another means to interfere as a ‘big brother’ and install its system of arbitration, persecution, and repression in Hong Kong.
Many of the States with extradition law follow international human rights laws to handle extradition obligations. And after the landmark pronouncement of Soering verdict, States have been more cautious about core human rights laws and the due process of law while handling extradition requests. And regarding the extradition treaty with China, almost all the countries debar themselves from entering into any extradition agreements with China as the country is known for the violation of those core rights. Given this situation, the step of the Hong Kong government is undoubtedly an appalling one.
The writer is a student of LLM, South Asian University, New Delhi, India.