The Hong Kong government’s proposed amendment to the extradition bill has been met with massive resistance from its citizens. On June 9, people from all walks of life participated in a mass demonstration against the extradition bill, marching from Victoria Park all the way to government headquarters. Men and women, adults and children, all sought to protect the one thing they hold dear about Hong Kong — its democracy and personal freedoms.
Varying points of view
The amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance is expected to affect the city in various ways, especially its freedom of expression. Three senior judges said that the bill, if passed, will threaten Hong Kong’s business, politics, and diplomacy. Li Anran, a Legal and Political Thinking community convener, said that the changes will affect the city’s rule of law, stating that its judicial independence will lead to mistrust.
In defense of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance amendment, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) announced that the bill will improve the safety and security of the city. The extradition bill has been proposed in response to Taiwan’s request to Hong Kong to extradite a murder suspect. A Hong Kong official said: “If these deficiencies were not addressed as a matter of priority, Hong Kong would continue to be a bolt-hole for criminals, putting Hong Kong residents’ safety at risk and disregarding our international responsibilities in the fight against cross-border and transnational crimes.”
However, the danger of the amendment stems from the fact that once passed, it will also allow Beijing to request extradition of Hongkongers to the mainland to be tried according to their communist laws. Many say that this is the real reason why the city’s administrations even introduced the law and that the Taiwanese murder charge was simply used as an excuse to implement China’s extradition amendment plan.
Ms. Huang, one of the protesters in the demonstration, believes that China’s rule of law cannot be trusted. With changes in the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, she thinks that prisoners will be subjected to unfair trials and be abused. “Political figures, journalists, and non-governmental organizations are the first to bear the brunt. This affects the news we see and affects our lives. The ultimate goal of the Chinese government is to scare us and let us not dare to speak. We should have Freedom from fear,” she said in a statement (NTD)
According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the amendment is a serious threat to journalists reporting sensitive topics about mainland China. The law will push journalists to self-censor news so as not to evoke Beijing’s anger. Simply by touching on sensitive information, journalists could be branded as having a political view against the regime and be sent for trial to the mainland.
The US issues a warning
The United States released a statement, warning that the proposed amendment could jeopardize Hong Kong’s special status bestowed by Washington. Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman, said that the disruption of the “one country, two systems” framework imperils Hong Kong’s “special status in international affairs.”
In Australia, Chinese ethnic citizens went on a protest, urging the country’s government to make a stand. Ida Lee, one of the many who gathered in Central Sydney, feared that normal citizens like her would be arrested without valid reasons if she set foot in Hong Kong once the bill is passed.
Jared Fu, a university student, said: “Our major concerns regarding this bill include possible political persecution and human rights violations and even threats to personal safety if detained by China.” Australia has yet to condemn the proposed law, but the government has reportedly sent its consul-general in Hong Kong to raise their concerns with senior-level officials.