The mainland already has a list of more than 300 fugitives hiding in Hong Kong that it wants to be sent back over the border, a former deputy minister of public security told RTHK on Wednesday.
Chen Zhimin, who held the senior government position from 2009 to 2017, said the authorities “have the name of every single one" of these people, adding they are wanted for serious crimes.
Chen said that when he was in office, he had negotiated with SAR officials, including former security secretary Lai Tung-kwok, and the then undersecretary John Lee, over a possible extradition agreement, and that it was a pity that no consensus was reached at the time.
He also brushed aside concerns that a proposed change in Hong Kong law, which would allow the SAR to surrender suspects on a case-by-case basis, would affect the SAR’s business environment.
Hong Kong’s business sector has called for some white-collar crimes to be excluded under the legal amendments. But Chen said all criminal offences should be subject to legal sanctions.
Chen, who is a member of the central government’s top advisory body, the CPPCC, said the mainland has helped Hong Kong in the past by arresting and sending back crime suspects that had fled across the border, and it is time for the SAR to start returning the favour.
He also said there were “unnecessary worries and speculation” in Hong Kong that Beijing would seek the extradition of people wanted for political reasons, using criminal offences as a pretext. He said the mainland would handle every case in accordance with the law.
Later, Lai confirmed that talks on renditions between Hong Kong and the mainland had taken place, but he said "some issues" could not be resolved and no agreement could be reached. He didn't specify what these issues were and also refused to disclose the number of mainland crime suspects believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong.