06/07/2019, 13.22
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Some 3,000 legal professionals take part in silent march to protest extradition law to China

by Paul Wang

Beijing wants the law to be approved "urgently" to allow the transfer of fugitives from Hong Kong to China. However, Chinese courts are not independent, and provide no guarantees for the human rights of the accused or for his right to a fair trial. Card Zen says that he became a fugitive in 2019. Activists and dissidents fleeing China and freedom of speech in Hong Kong are at risk. Chris Patten criticises the bill.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – At least 3,000 lawyers, jurists and academics took part in yesterday’s silent march from the Court of Final Appeal to the government headquarters in the Admiralty district in order to protest against the government's decision to adopt a law on extradition for criminals and fugitives.

According to the protesters, Hong Kong leaders should avoid rushing to adopt this law and resist Beijing, which wants the law implemented "urgently".

If passed, the law would allow the transfer of fugitives from Hong Kong to jurisdictions with which it has no extradition agreements, such as China and Taiwan.

According to some protesters, the problem is that in China courts are not independent, and there are no guarantees that the accused's human rights will be protected or that he will get a fair trial.

Many pro-democracy advocates, like Martin Lee Chu-ming, fear that under this law Hong Kong will lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction from China, which will undermine the rule of law.

Pro-democracy groups warn that activists and dissidents could be targeted by Beijing, accused of actions deemed illegal within China.

Card Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, defender of religious freedom in China and critic of the Beijing government, called on people to take part in a pro-democracy march against the law on 9 June. He also commented sarcastically that "In 2019 I became a fugitive."

A number of business associations also took part in the rally, most notably the Nordic chambers of commerce (representing Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland), which issued a statement. But dozens of other Chambers of Commerce are pushing the government to delay adopting the law.

In a video released yesterday, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, said that the extradition law is a "terrible blow" to the rule of law in Hong Kong, to its stability and security, as well as to its position as the largest international trading hub.

Within the local Law Society, some members believe the new law will be used for political persecution inside Hong Kong, and the suppression of freedom of speech.

In recent years, even without the law, five booksellers who sold books critical of China’s leaders were kidnapped and held in China.

Chinese courts are another fact that worries pro-democracy advocates and lawyers in Hong Kong. In cases of life imprisonment and the death penalty, they can exercise discretionary power and look into cases that go beyond the 20-year prosecution limit.

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