Hong Kong continues to retain its independent judiciary and is a separate jurisdiction after its 1997 handover to China. Photo: Asia Times

Hong Kong should revise its extradition law so as not to become a haven for felons, as there are at least 300 wanted mainland criminals at large in the city. This is according to an estimate by a former vice minister of public security, who has urged the Hong Kong government to swiftly table a bill to the city’s legislature to plug the extradition loophole.

Chen Zhimin, who was in charge of the daily running of China’s public security apparatus from 2009 to 2017, told Hong Kong reporters in Beijing while attending the annual parliamentary session that there were more than 300 fugitives hiding in Hong Kong and that the mainland authorities “have the name of every single one” of them. Chen implied that the mainland would send Hong Kong the list once a consensus on how to surrender wanted persons could be reached.

Hong Kong’s latest proposal to amend laws to enable the surrender of fugitives and criminals to jurisdictions with which the city is yet to have an extradition deal has been greeted with a public outcry, and the city’s business sector and multinational firms are also up in arms. People fret that anyone who falls foul of foreign laws may be extradited, even to places like mainland China known for judicial proceedings where judges toe the party line, especially in politically sensitive cases. Some have warned that the new amendment will deal a crippling blow to the city’s standing as a business and financial hub.

Hong Kong continues to have its own judicial system, in place since before its 1997 handover from London to Beijing, and mainland Chinese law enforcers and judges are prohibited from discharging their duties in the city.

Hong Kong and mainland China currently have no extradition deal. Photo: Handout

But Chen said there is no need to worry about mainland authorities using criminal offenses as a pretext to seek the extradition of those wanted for political reasons, saying some people exaggerated such concerns.

Chen said the mainland had helped Hong Kong in the past by arresting and sending back criminal suspects who fled across the border, and it was time for the city to start returning the favour.

Also, Hong Kong’s pro-establishment lawmakers say the chances of expats or local businessmen being extradited to the mainland would not increase as a result of revisions to the law.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee said the administration had no idea how many people wanted for serious crimes on the mainland were hiding in Hong Kong.

He said since there are no extradition agreements between the two sides, the mainland has not sent any requests for the surrender of suspects. Since there are no requests, there are no figures, he said.

The security chief said the government received more than 4,500 submissions on the matter during the 20-day public consultation that ended on March 4, with about 3,000 of them expressing support for the revision and some 1,400 opposing it.

Le also said that the government had yet to make a decision on the business sector’s suggestion that white-collar crimes with no violent elements be excluded from the bill.

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