Billionaire Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung has raised questions over the potential implications of Hong Kong’s proposed extradition law amendment with a surprise filing for a judicial review.
Hong Kong’s sixth-richest man, with a net worth according to Forbes of around US$17 billion, requested that the Court of First Instance grant him relief so that he would not be handed over to Macau, where he faces imprisonment.
Lau, who was sentenced to five years and three months in prison by a Macau court in 2014 in a high profile corruption case against former Financial Secretary Au Man-long, said the proposed law would compel him to “exile himself from Hong Kong”.
Because there is currently no extradition legislation in force Lau, who quit as chairman of Chinese Estates and passed ownership to his wife Kimbie Chan, was never sent to Macau to serve his sentence.
The proposed extradition law stems from the case of a young Hong Kong man who last year allegedly killed his girlfriend in Taiwan, but returned to Hong Kong before he was suspected of being involved in the murder. He has not been charged with the offense because there is no extradition law on the Hong Kong statute books.
While the case highlighted a legal loophole, it raised strong opposition in Hong Kong in fear of the potential abuse of any new extradition law, in particular when it came to economic crimes.
Two years ago, billionaire Xiao Jianhua was reportedly taken from the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong and detained in China for allegedly managing assets for top mainland government officials. He is also said to be the subject of corruption investigations pushed by President Xi Jinping.
Xiao’s case raised fears among businessmen who in Hong Kong had previously felt safe from mainland accusations, and concern has only grown with the proposed legislation that could legalize extradition from Hong Kong.
On Sunday, led by democrats and key legal figures, over 10,000 people marched to government headquarters to protest against the pending extradition law. However, the government’s position is that it will not drop the amendment, and Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the law is not tailor-made for China.
Because the request for a judicial review of a piece of legislation not yet implemented is uncommon, observers feel that the attempt by Joseph Lau Luen-hung is unlikely to be approved. But given the bottomless resources of Lau and others like him, it is safe to assume that this is a story that has only just begun.