China will have the power to extradite Hong Kong citizens who are charged under a pending new national security law, according to a pro-Beijing legislative heavyweight.
“If the central government thinks that it’s necessary, it will be an option that a person who has violated the national security law will be extradited to and trialed in the mainland,” said Tam Yiu-chung, the sole Hong Kong member of the NPC Standing Committee.
“It depends on how the central government will exercise its jurisdiction.” The law will soon be discussed and passed by the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, he said.
Cases involving suspected foreign interference could be among those that mainland authorities decide to handle, rather than leaving them to the special administrative region, Tam added.
Such moves will not contradict the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which states that Beijing has the jurisdiction on matters relating to defense and foreign affairs in Hong Kong, he said.
The NPC Standing Committee will meet in Beijing from Thursday to Saturday. Although the national security law was not an agenda of the meeting, it was reported that the committee may pass the law in a special meeting next week.
Prior to this, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China, in Hawaii on Wednesday. Hong Kong matters will be one of the key topics discussed in the meeting. The US has threatened to remove Hong Kong’s special status over the Beijing-imposed law.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Free Press tweeted a letter written by Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for the Home Department of the United Kingdom, to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It addressed how the British government should increase the rights of British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong.
According to the proposal, if the national security law is implemented in Hong Kong, BNO passport holders and their family members would be allowed to search for jobs and study in the UK within a period of 12 months.
While the central government has not yet unveiled the draft of law, some pro-Beijing politicians have tried to ease public concerns. Most cases will be handled by a special court in Hong Kong, while the Hong Kong Police Force will set up a special branch to enforce the law, they said. The law will not have a retroactive period, they added.
However, a person’s past speeches could be used as evidence in a case, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a senior counsel and member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong, said in a forum on Saturday. A judge will assess a person’s intention to commit an act of treason or subversion based on the “actual effect” their speeches or actions have had, he added.
Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said on Monday that the mainland will need to have jurisdiction over cases where national security has been severely threatened.
Deng also said Beijing would send security agents to Hong Kong. Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said it was not reasonable to expect the legislation to follow common law principles.
The proposed national security law sounds like a weird hybrid between common and mainland law, said Philip Dykes, chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association. Beijing’s intention to take control of the most serious national security cases in Hong Kong amounts to a “reverse engineering” of the failed extradition bill, he said.
“At the moment it sounds like a reverse engineering of the ill-fated extradition bill. Rather than you going to the mainland, the mainland comes to you,” Dykes said.
Most people in Hong Kong are against the national security law Beijing is set to impose on the SAR, said James Tien, honorary chairman of the Liberal Party.
Tien said he believes most people are not happy with it, but there’s nothing the SAR can do as the central government is the one driving the legislation. He said he hoped people would come to accept it once the law’s details are known.
The possibility of extraditions to the mainland would worry a lot of people in Hong Kong, New People’s Party chairwoman and executive councilor Regina Ip said Wednesday.
“If a decision is taken or the draft legislation has the effect that Hong Kong people accused of infringing serious national offenses could be transferred to the mainland for trial, given that the mainland has a totally different legal and judicial system from Hong Kong, that would cause considerable concerns,” Ip said.
She said residents in Hong Kong are accustomed to the common law system, which guarantees defendants the right to an open, highly transparent trial and offers many human rights protections.