Snapshots #1:

The June 4th Incident and the 2019 Extradition Bill 

 

 

The June 4th Incident of 1989 is regarded as one of the defining moments of recent Chinese history, where student-led demonstrations in Beijing calling for political and economic reform resulted in suppression by military units. Whilst the exact details of the incident remain unclear, what is clear is that the efforts made towards the betterment of their society have not been forgotten. The June 4th incident, and continued calls for justice for the demonstrators, have always been focal points of Hong Kong and CUHKCAS. Though June 4th is an issue of 30 years past, we should bear historical lessons in mind when reflecting on current political events.

It is heartening to see that Hong Kong people have always been actively engaged in political discussion towards political and social issues, especially those regarding the repercussions of Hong Kong and Chinese governmental actions on the integrity of One Country Two Systems. Whilst not exactly related to the June 4th incident, recent heated debates about the proposed Extradition Bill has sparked widespread concern. Will the arrival of the special date of June 4th heat up the debate even more?

 

Brief Summary of the Bill
Sparked by the recent case of Chan Tong-Kai who is suspected of murdering his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan, Hong Kong lawmakers have actively called for an amendment bill to enhance special surrender arrangements with Macau, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong currently has surrender arrangements with countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The lawmakers, in justification of the proposed arrangement, emphasise that the terms for the amendment bill are similar to arrangements with other countries. If anything, these arrangements are more stringent as it only includes 37 out of 46 criminal offences that are extraditable to other jurisdictions. Extraditions will also be assessed on a case-by-case basis and the final decision of whether or not to extradite a suspected criminal is made by the independent courts of Hong Kong.

 

Debates surrounding the Bill
Whether viewed as an opportunity or an excuse for passing the bill, the lawmakers argue that the Chan Tong-Kai case displayed a “loophole” in the special surrender arrangements of Hong Kong. They have suggested that the loophole comes from the fact that criminals are able to flee from one place to another to avoid punishment, and yet authorities are unable to do anything. For instance, the Hong Kong property tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-Hong has remained in Hong Kong ever since he was jailed in absentia for more than 5 years in 2014, on corruption charges in Macau. It has also been deemed to be unreasonable for Hong Kong to have arrangements with faraway countries such as the United Kingdom but not with directly neighbouring jurisdictions like Taiwan, Macau and the People’s Republic of China. Lawmakers in support of the proposal such as Starry Lee Wai-King and Regina Ip Lau Suk-Yee put forward that there is nothing to fear since safeguards are sufficient; for instance, the suspect can always raise an opposition to being extradited and we can place our trust in the courts to give a reasonable and fair verdict.

On the other hand, strong voices from the opposition argue that this arrangement would erode the protection of human rights for fugitives and Hong Kong citizens at large. It is argued that as the final decision on the extradition would fall upon the chief executive, the decision could involve political pressure by the mainland authorities. The opposition believes that this is fundamentally against the human rights protection granted under the Hong Kong Bill of Rights as there is no guarantee to a fair trial in Mainland China. Additionally, critics have raised concerns over the Mainland fabricating political offences into criminal offences and request extradition. An example would be in the case of the book store owner, Chan Wing-Kee, who was charged with “illegal operations” when it was highly suspected that the Mainland authorities arrested him for selling publications that are critical of the Chinese government. In short, the Bill seems to be marking an apparent departure from the “One Country Two Systems” model, blurring the distinction between the rule of law of the two jurisdictions and establishing closer links with the Chinese legal system.

 

The way forward
The opposition has suggested alternatives such as dealing with the Chan Tong-Kai case first on an ad-hoc basis (put forward by the Pan-Democrats); others, including the Bar Association and the Civil Party leader Alvin Yeung, suggest extending the jurisdiction of Hong Kong courts so that they could hear overseas murder cases involving Hong Kong suspects and/or victims. These suggestions, however, lack a broad perspective about similar cases that might occur in the future. The general idea about extending surrender arrangements with geographically neighbouring countries is not unattractive per se. However, in light of longstanding concerns of Hong Kong citizens towards “One Country, Two Systems” and the city’s relationship with the Mainland authorities, any debate surrounding the Extradition Bill and broader efforts pushing for a better future should proceed with caution to ensure that Hong Kong’s core values are securely protected. While it is undoubtedly heartening to see so many citizens willing to come forward to express their views about the recent Bill, it is also important that people do not blindly protest and oppose simply for the sake of opposing or remaining in the sting of past events. The stigma against Mainland China regarding how they treat criminals and the opposition is certainly understandable, but it would be more useful to gain a deeper understanding of the facts involved, in aid of a more informed, critical debate. 

 

 

「六四」是近代中國歷史上一項令人震驚的政治事件。望推動政經改革的學生發起大規模和平集會運動,卻遭政府以軍事鎮壓回應。當年廣場內的實際情況或許並不為人所知,但社會並未忘記當年學生為推動社會進步所付出的努力。六四事件一直是香港社會及劍橋大學香港及中國事務會關注的議題。雖然三十年已過,我們仍該把這刻骨銘心的事件看成一個歷史性的參考。

香港人勇於發表對政治與社會問題的不滿,並努力維護一國兩制的核心價值,固然是好事。面對六四週年紀念的來臨,香港社會對修訂逃犯條例的爭議會否變得更加激烈?

 

條例內容大要

港人陳同佳涉嫌在台灣殺死女友後潛逃返港,事件觸發香港政府提出修訂逃犯條例,以建立與澳門、台灣以及內地的引渡安排。現時跟香港簽訂引渡協議的國家包括英國、美國、加拿大、新加坡、馬來西亞以及菲律賓等。港府強調是次草案內容與其他現存的引渡協議相近,甚至更為嚴謹––– 香港與其他國家有46項可引渡刑事罪行,而與澳門、台灣以及內地只有37項為可引渡罪行。港府亦表明所有引渡申請會以個案形式、交由香港的獨立法庭審議並作最後決定,而非由行政機關決定。

有關條例的爭議

一方面,有人認為陳同佳殺人案是政府為推行修訂逃犯條例的藉口;另一方面,政府一直強調有關案件揭露香港的引渡安排存在「漏洞」––– 犯罪分子或潛逃至港逃避法律責任,而外地執法部門缺乏相關的應對措施。例如,香港地產大亨劉鑾雄2014年被澳門法院裁定賄賂及洗黑錢罪成,需入獄五年多,但他一直居留於香港,缺席聆訊,並未服刑。此外,香港與英國等西方國家之間存有引渡協議,卻未有跟鄰近地區(台灣、澳門、中國內地)簽訂,似乎並不合理。若有人於犯罪後逃離至相關地區,其實並非難以想像的事。另外,李慧琼、葉劉淑儀等立法會議員表示修訂草案提供了足夠保障,市民毋須感到憂慮。他們指出疑犯可以對引渡要求提出反對,大眾亦應相信法庭能做出11合理和公平的判決。

另一方面,社會上的反對聲音認為有關修訂會侵蝕逃犯和香港市民的人權自由。不少人質疑內地法制缺乏公平審訊,跟香港基本法保障人權的理念大為不同。亦有言論指出,中國政府或將政治檢控包裝為刑事檢控,繼而提出引渡要求,銅鑼灣書店店長林榮基被捕事件為例子之一。他早前被控違法經營書籍銷售,被內地檢控部門關押受審,但不少人均認為他真正被捕的原因是售賣批評內地政權的書籍。簡而言之,修例令香港與中國內地法制間的界線變得模糊,似乎與一國兩制背道而馳。

逃犯條例未來的方向

民間在爭議期間提出不少替代方案,包括泛民主派建議以特定手法處理陳同佳一案;香港大律師公會及公民黨主席楊岳橋則提議賦予香港法院「域外法權」,將香港法院針對殺人案的管轄權擴充至港人涉嫌在境外殺人的案件。然而,以上建議並未全面考慮將來發生同類案件的情況。與鄰近地區建立引渡協議本身並非壞事,但香港市民近年對一國兩制的信心持續下降,亦對兩地政府關係變得緊密感到憂慮,因此,政府、社會均應抱持謹慎態度對待修訂逃犯條例或其他為建設更美好將來的政策,以確保香港的核心價值得到保護。近期,不少香港市民走出街頭表達其對修例的意見,情況的確令人鼓舞。但無論如何,我們必須保持批判性,而非因舊日的歷史事件或為反對而盲目反對。內地政府對待罪犯及打擊異見人士的手段向來惹人爭議,社會上因修例所產生的憂慮亦絕非空泛,但參與修例討論前,我們必須全面及客觀了解相關事實,才能做出明智的判斷。

 

Images taken from CTV News and Time Magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *