The honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, James Tien, has criticised the mainland's legal system, saying people and the business sector didn't have much confidence in the way it was run. He made the comment a day after the Liaison Office reportedly told local delegates to the national parliament and its advisory body that it backed controversial changes to Hong Kong's extradition law, that could see people sent across the border for trial.
"We don't have much faith in the way they conduct the whole legal proceedings," he said. "So it is not only the business sector's concern, it's for the people as well. I hope that the Beijing government realises that."
But Tien, who was speaking after an RTHK radio programme, said he thought business representatives in Legco would still vote to support the changes following the push by Beijing.
"I think the business community's legislative councillors will fall back in line, actually I hope I'm wrong," he said. "Because I think one key issue to them is actually next year's legislative council election, which is only like 15 months away. I think they really have to listen to their voters."
Tien, a former legislator, says the Liberal Party has not discussed how it will vote. But he says its lawmakers will support the government’s proposal if the law is not retroactive and there is a high threshold for extradition. The government has said extradition is, by its very nature, retroactive.
Tien is known for forthright views. In 2014, he was axed from China's top advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, after he called on the then Chief Executive CY Leung to resign. In 2003, he played a role in Hong Kong's first Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's decision to drop national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.
The government wants to be able to extradite fugitives to jurisdictions not covered by current agreements. These include the mainland, Taiwan and Macau. It says the legislation is necessary to close legal loopholes, such as the case of a Hong Kong man Chan Tong-kai who is wanted in Taiwan for murder. The government also says there will be sufficient safeguards in place, such as the Chief Executive having to sign off on each extradition.
This standpoint was backed by executive councillor Ip Kwok-him, who appeared on the same radio programme. Ip, who is a deputy to the National People’s Congress and a former DAB legislator, said issues with the mainland legal system should not be blown out of proportion. He also said that it was appropriate for Beijing to weigh in on the matter, after pro-democracy politicians visited the United States to lobby against the bill.
On Thursday, a pro-democracy delegation, led by veteran politician Martin Lee, met with the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Pompeo said the proposed changes to the extradition law were a threat to the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Local critics of the bill say the changes will ultimately lead to activists being extradited.
The business sector is also concerned, with chambers of commerce criticising the proposed amendments.
James Tien criticises mainland legal system
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