Second-year master’s student of EU-Russia Studies at the University of Tartu.
Earlier this year the HKSAR government introduced Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill. The Hong Kong authorities attempted to amend the existing extradition legislation and extend the mutual legal assistance to mainland China and other countries which Hong Kong has no existing agreement.
Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, enjoys the separation of power between judiciary, legislature and executive. The Bill had to be through three rounds of readings in the legislature before becoming an Ordinance. The first reading was passed in spite of oppositions from the business community, human rights activists and the general public in Hong Kong. Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the street peacefully to voice their opposition. But the government insisted to carry on.
Then it came a million of people protesting this Bill on Sunday (9/6). The government still did not change its stance and announced that the second reading would continue on 12/6 (Wed). As the protest escalated, the government finally announced that it would not continue the reading but never announced the exact date of the second reading. It means the Bill can be passed anytime without prior notice. On 16/6, 2 million demonstrators staged another protest to demand for a complete withdrawal of the Bill. But the Hong Kong leader only apologised for her mismanagement for the protests and the consultation process of the Bill.
Considering that the majority of Hong Kong parliamentarians are Beijing loyalists, the second and the third readings will be expected to get through without hindrance. Once the Bill has been passed, everyone in Hong Kong will no longer be protected by the independent judicial system in Hong Kong. Foreign investors and international journalists will also be subject to the judicial system in mainland China, implying that the peoples in Hong Kong will no longer be safe and free. It also means that Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” enshrined in the international treaty Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 will be eroded.
The US State Department has already publicly opposed this Bill but the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao only sent a formal diplomatic note to the Hong Kong Chief Executive to express their concerns of this Bill. The EU should take further actions to protect its free trades with Hong Kong. Given that there are some 30,000 EU citizens residing in Hong Kong, this legislation directly affects European business interests and the mobility of EU citizens between the Schengen Area and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, the world’s freest economy, is a major international financial centre with 71 out of the world’s largest 100 banking institutions from 36 countries. This special administrative region has signed free visa agreements with 165 countries (including the Schengen countries) in the world. In this city, there is a European Chamber of Commerce comprised of 15 EU countries and Norway. Over 10 billion euro of mainland China’s imports from the EU routed through this city. So this is an Asia’s World City which belongs to the established international order. Such established order can only continue if Hong Kong can maintain its judicial independence guaranteed by the Sino-British international treaty.