Debate rages on whether 12 Hong Kong people being detained in Shenzhen should be sent back to the city for trial, rather than being tried across the border.
Executive Councillor and barrister Ronny Tong pointed out that because Hong Kong and the mainland do not have a rendition agreement, the SAR government simply doesn't have the power to demand that the group – which was said to be fleeing to Taiwan while it was intercepted by the Guangdong coastguard – be sent back to Hong Kong.
But Democratic Party lawmaker and deputy chairman of the Legco security panel, James To, said it's not uncommon for mainland authorities to hand over those wanted in Hong Kong to their local counterparts.
One of the 12 faces national security charges while the rest face protested-related charges.
Tong pointed out that mainland authorities are not obliged to hand over the suspects, but they could do so out of goodwill.
"This is an entirely informal arrangement and entirely based on the goodwill of the law enforcement agencies on the mainland," he told RTHK's Candice Wong.
"But where the people involved have committed a crime on the mainland, then obviously the mainland legal enforcement agencies will see to it that these people would have been tried first and probably serve the sentence first before even considering whether or not there would be some informal arrangement by way in which they could be sent back to Hong Kong."
To, meanwhile, expressed concern if the 12 suspects receive proper legal representation while being detained.
The Democratic Party lawmaker said while mainland authorities have the power to investigate cases in their jurisdiction, the Hong Kong government should express "reasonable concern" about legal representation amid claims that the Hong Kong suspects were denied access to lawyers whom they've appointed.
Tong said international covenants on human rights do not apply to China, and that he hopes the case will be handled in accordance with mainland laws.
The Exco member played down fears the Hong Kong suspects would be tried on the mainland for national security offences allegedly committed in Hong Kong. That followed claims by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying that the 12 are "separatists" trying to split Hong Kong from China.
To said the government should inform the public whether it is seeking their repatriation amid fears they would be tried across the border for offences committed here.