Pro-government legislator Paul Tse has rejected calls that the government's proposed law change on extradition arrangements should only apply to Taiwan, saying the changes should either apply to all jurisdictions that Hong Kong has not already entered into agreements with; or none at all.
The government has proposed to amend two ordinances to make it easier for Hong Kong to hand fugitives over to other jurisdictions, including Taiwan and mainland China.
It cited a Taiwan murder case last year - where both the victim and prime suspect were Hongkongers - as an example of why amendments to the law are needed.
The opposition camp has been calling for the changes to be applicable to Taiwan only, but Tse stressed on a radio programme that the proposed amendments should apply to all 166 jurisdictions that the SAR doesn't have a formal extradition treaty with.
“We have to either amend the ordinances or we don’t. Once we do that I think we have to allow countries all over the world, including Taiwan as a region, to participate in the scheme. So its not practical to simply single out Taiwan as the target for the time being because either we remove the restriction at the moment, or we don’t”, he said.
But Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung hit back, saying a "Taiwan-only" arrangement is the most “sufficient” and “easy” solution to tackle the alleged murder case.
“Are we seeing a lot of people coming to Hong Kong as an escape haven? No I don’t think so. If the figure is not high, if we do not have any hard evidence to prove that, then why are we trying to lift that exemption and trying to include China? That is going to open a floodgate and if the other side is trying to say we have a loophole, we are creating an even bigger loophole”, Yeung said.
His comment comes a day after former Legco president Tsang Yok-sing warned that Hong Kong is becoming a haven for criminals escaping from the mainland amid an increase in cross-border activities.
The Police Commissioner Stephen Lo, meanwhile, says if the proposed amendment to the extradition law is passed, it would be "very helpful".
Speaking to journalists after attending a police passing-out parade, he explained that the police often find it hard to investigate cross-border and online crimes when Hong Kong doesn't have any formal agreements with many countries over the surrender of fugitive offenders.
The convenor of the Executive Council, Bernard Chan, for his part, said local courts will be responsible for deciding whether a fugitive should be handed over to another jurisdiction. He stressed people should have confidence in the SAR's judicial system.