The proposed changes to Hong Kong’s extradition law set up a mechanism for handling jurisdictions with which the territory does not have formal agreements. The most significant among those are Taiwan, mainland China and Macau, a former Portuguese territory that returned to Chinese rule in 1999. The proposal considers all three parts of the People’s Republic of China, although the Communist Party-run central government has never controlled Taiwan.
The obstacles to formal extradition agreements differ. With Taiwan, the issue has primarily been political, legal experts say. China considers self-ruled Taiwan to be part of its territory, and does not recognize its government.
In 2009, when Taiwan had a president who sought closer ties with China, the two sides reached an agreement on transferring criminal suspects. But Taiwan’s present administration is much more wary of Beijing. An official with Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice said it would not agree to any extradition deal that considered Taiwan as part of China.
“Although Taiwan has been seeking mutual judicial assistance with different jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, the government will not accept an extradition agreement that erodes Taiwan’s dignity and sovereignty,” the official, Liu Yi-chun, said last week, according to Taiwan’s state-owned Central News Agency.
In Hong Kong, the chief concern about an agreement with mainland China is doubts about the quality of justice in a place where defendants have little access to legal representation and courts are subordinate to the Communist Party.
“If we now extend this arrangement to allow in particular the mainland to make requests for rendition, then the simple point is we are accepting that currently mainland China’s criminal justice system meet basic requirements for fair trials,” said Eric Chueng, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong.
“If we are not satisfied with that,” he added, “why are introducing an amendment of such far-reaching effect?”