Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has declared the extradition bill, which caused widespread protests since March, as “dead.”
The controversial bill, also known as Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Bill 2019, was first filed last March 29. The implementation of the legislation will allow Hong Kong to hand over suspects accused of crimes to mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau.
The legislation was suspended, before Lam’s announcement, due to the protests to scrap the bill.
“But there are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council. So I reiterate here, there is no such plan. The bill is dead,” Carrie Lam announced.
Despite the announcement, protests will continue as the government has not yet addressed the five-point demands of the protesters.
The legislation addresses the threat that criminals from the countries mentioned above will use the city to escape and avoid prosecution. The Hong Kong government pushed for this bill to ensure that the city will not be safe from criminals.
However, the extradition bill is complicated and opposed by most of Hong Kong citizens. Anyone who is in Hong Kong may be deported to China as long as there is “a case” against them. The citizens fear that China will use it for political reasons and enable China to meddle on Hong Kong’s legal system.
In 1984, the United Kingdom reached a deal with China. The agreement between the two countries in 1997 pushed the UK to return Hong Kong to China under a condition that Hong Kong will gain autonomy for 50 years. Because of this, Hong Kong has a legal system, borders, and rights. The city also has its own government separate from mainland China’s.
The extradition bill has prompted citizens to take to the streets and march in peaceful protests from March of this year. As time progresses, the disagreement has turned violent.
On July 1 — the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China — protesters stormed the legislative building. The opposition broke building’s glass doors, destroyed desks and filing cabinets; vandalizing building walls with spray paints stating, “HK is not China.”
Law enforcers responded to the incident in full gear. The police officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
During the protests, aside from the removal of the extradition bill, the protesters called for the resignation of Hong Kong leader Lam, who’s considered a pro-Beijing politician.
Reason for Protest
Although Hong Kong citizens have observed the freedom of “one country, two systems,” many claims that it is no longer the same, according to CNN, China is accused of meddling in Hong Kong affairs beyond the boundaries of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
According to protesters, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is made up of pro-Beijing lawmakers. These lawmakers are influencing the system in favor of mainland China directives.
One incident that comes to mind if the extradition bill is passed is the Causeway Bay Books disappearances. Five Hong Kong booksellers, who were critical of the Chinese government, suddenly disappeared in Hong Kong — only to be found in China.
Last June 2016, one of the booksellers gave a lengthy press conference detailing his and the other staff’s illegal detention in China.
The Catalyst of the Extradition Bill
The issue started when a suspect fled to Hong Kong from Taiwan after committing murder.
Chan Tong-kai murdered his girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing in February last year. Both of them were Hong Kong citizens, and we’re traveling to Taiwan on a Valentine’s Day vacation.
Chan returned to Hong Kong four days after the possible murder before Taiwan police started investigating the case. Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau checked the couple’s hotel. In a security feed, the authorities saw that Chan checked out of the hotel on his own.
Poon’s father contacted Hong Kong authorities when his daughter did not return with Chan. Authorities in Taiwan and Hong Kong coordinated and investigated on Chan, and during questioning with the Hong Kong police, Chan eventually confessed to the murder.
However, Chan could not be tried for murder in Hong Kong since it lacks jurisdiction. Instead, Chan was charged with money laundering for stealing Poon’s assets. He received a 29-month jail sentence for the charge.
Taiwan has stated that it is not in a hurry to prosecute Chan.
Hong Kong’s extradition bill will also affect Taiwanese citizens; stating that the legislation puts Taiwanese traveling or living in Hong Kong to be sent to China as well.