Chief Executive Carrie Lam says society will not accept planned amendments to extradition laws unless they apply retroactively, although the government will listen to lawmakers' views on the matter.
The authorities say they want Hong Kong to be allowed to arrange one-off extradition deals on a case-by-case basis, in particular to allow a Hong Kong man to be sent back to Taiwan to face trial over the murder of his Hong Kong girlfriend on the island.
But concerns have been raised in the business sector about people being sent across the border for past offences on the mainland, such as giving bribes to officials. Fugitive tycoon Joseph Lau has also gone to the courts to try to block the law changes, fearing he will be handed over to Macau to serve a prison term for fraud he was given in absentia in 2014.
Ahead of the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam said the government will push ahead with the bill even if the law changes come too late to arrange an extradition in the Taiwan murder case.
“The government will try very, very hard in order to provide the legal basis for us to proceed. But if we don’t have that legal basis, we simply could not proceed,” Lam said.
“Since we have already introduced the legislation to provide that legal basis, the question now is for the Legislative Council to also display the same sort of compassion and empathy, and try to speed up the legislative exercise to give us that legal basis to proceed. “I think that is also the wish of the family,” she said.
Lam did not elaborate on why time might be running out to arrange an extradition over the murder of 20-year-old Poon Hiu-wing which happened in February last year. But fears have been raised that the suspect, Chan Tong-kai, 20, could flee Hong Kong after serving a possible custodial sentence for money laundering charges he has pleaded guilty to.
Meanwhile, Legco president Andrew Leung says he hasn't decided if he will cap the amount of discussion time on the bill.
Last year, Leung allowed only 36 hours for the vetting of a controversial bill that allowed mainland laws to be enforced at the West Kowloon express rail terminus.
Pro-democracy lawmakers have vowed to do everything in their power to slow down the passage of the extradition law bill. Many have warned that anyone living in Hong Kong, or merely passing through the territory, will be at risk of being surrendered to mainland authorities, even for political reasons.
The government says Hong Kong cannot be allowed to be a haven for criminals and there will be adequate procedural safeguards in place for when extraditions are arranged.