HONG KONG - The International Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization, has become the latest group to criticize a proposed change to Hong Kong law that would allow for criminal extradition to mainland China.
In a scathing letter issued to legislators Wednesday, the ICC questioned why Hong Kong is fast-tracking such significant changes to its legal system with a limited public consultation, calling the move “most unbecoming in terms of public governance.”
The ICC’s letter follows similar concerns echoed by the European Union, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong Bar Association and US Consul General Kurt Tong.
The bill was introduced in April and is set to be voted on in July by its semi-democratic legislature, in which the majority is held by pro-establishment legislators.
If passed, it would allow the city to extradite to other jurisdictions where it lacks a permanent extradition agreement, including China and Taiwan, on a case by case basis. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has previously said that such changes would close legal “loopholes.”
?It follows a high profile murder case last year in which a Hong Kong man was accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan, where the autonomous Chinese city also lacks a long term extradition agreement. The government has said speed is necessary as the murder suspect, who is serving a prison sentence on related money laundering charges, could be released as early as October.
The changes, however, and the speed at which they have been introduced have raised international concern about the future of Hong Kong’s legal system and its global reputation.
Hong Kong, an autonomous special administrative region until 2047, has a dramatically different legal system from the mainland because of its former status as a British colony. Its strong rule of law has led dozens of multinational firms to make the city their Asia headquarters, although the ICC said this could change if the extradition law is put in place.
“Enactment of the amendment bill would mean more people in Hong Kong will be put to risk of losing freedom, property, and even their life in future of being surrendered, than merely passing judgment on the convicted of the Taiwan murder case,” the ICC said, urging lawmakers to take more time on the bill.
Earlier this week, the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission also added its concern to the growing list and said the extradition agreement could “create serious risks for U.S. national security and economic interests in the territory” and “pose increased risks for U.S. citizens and port calls in the territory.”
It also said the new law could impact the 1992 US-Hong Kong Policy Act, which grants the city special trading privileges, different from mainland China.
In late April, an estimated 130,000 Hong Kong residents participated in a protest against the extradition agreement, according to organizers, in the largest demonstration in years. Police estimates put the figure at closer to 23,000.