Hong Kong government withdraws proposed extradition legislation

unnamed A pregnant young lady from Hong Kong and her boyfriend went on a romantic short holiday to Taiwan. The lady, Poon Hui-wing, 20, never returned to Hong Kong from this Valentine’s trip last year, but her boyfriend, Chan Tong-kai, 19, did. During a quarrel in their hotel bedroom he had strangled her, shoved her body into a suitcase and dumped it in bushes near an underground station in Taipei. Chan could not be tried in Hong Kong under its law as the crime was committed abroad; and he could not be sent to Taiwan as there is no extradition treaty between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In February this year, nearly a year after Chan’s arrest, the Hong Kong government cited this case in support of proposed legislation allowing the city, with appropriate judicial approval, to transfer criminal suspects to Taiwan and elsewhere in the world on whose soil Hong Kong citizens are accused of crimes, including China.

The opponents of Hong Kong’s government, with not a little help from the spokespersons of various imperialist countries and their powerful media outlets, organised huge demonstrations against the proposed legislation, which had, incidentally, initially been greeted with enthusiasm by the authorities in Taiwan. Their present objection is not to people being extradited to Taiwan, but only to the People’s Republic of China which, according to their lying propaganda, is characterised by a complete absence of the rule of law or an independent judiciary. They would rather that a cold-blooded murderer went unpunished than risk real criminals being transferred to the mainland in appropriate cases.

In view of the opposition, the chief executive, Carrie Lam, suspended the attempted legislation for an indefinite duration.

The legislation would have allowed extradition on a ‘case by case’ basis to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong currently lacks a formal extradition agreement. Although the plan covered Taiwan as well as China, the Hong Kong government promised that the legislation would not apply to political crimes.

Then in May, Taiwan suddenly declared it would not seek Chan’s extradition even if the bill passed. Thereafter the debate turned into a broader dispute about civil liberties.

Five years ago the ‘umbrella movement’ in Hong Kong demanded independence from China and failed. Now the opposition saw its chance to embarrass the Hong Kong authorities. It demonstrated in large numbers. In Taiwan, too, the reactionaries organised demonstrations under the slogan ‘Support Hong Kong, protect Taiwan’, the idea being that the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement does not work.

The ultimate prize for these reactionaries, and their imperialist backers, is to prevent the peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the motherland, from which she has been forcefully separated for over 100 years, first by the Japanese and, since the end of the Second World War, by US imperialism.

The United Nations recognises the People’s Republic of China as the lawful representative of the whole of China, including Taiwan. It was following this recognition, on 25 October 1971, that the PRC replaced the Taiwanese representative on the UN Security Council as one of the five permanent on that body. Every country, including the US and Britain, is bound by that decision. Since the presidency of Richard Nixon, although every US administration has recognised the PRC as the legitimate sole representative of China, thus accepting the principle of One China, in practice the US has put every obstacle in the way of the peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the motherland – through a show of military force, sale to Taiwan of armaments, plus rendering economic and propaganda support.

The British government, not wanting to lag behind, claims the right to protect the citizens of Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong is an internal Chinese affair; and no government other than the Chinese government has the right, and/or the duty, to protect the citizens of Hong Kong, any more indeed than those of all the other citizens of China. With the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, Britain’s responsibility came to an end. It is high time that the British government understood it and stopped interfering in the internal affairs of China.

Let it be remarked in passing that the British government is doing its best to extradite renowned journalist Julian Assange to the US to face the prospect of a lifetime in prison for exposing the war crimes committed by US armed forces in Iraq. And yet it is opposing the Hong Kong government’s efforts to extradite a murderer to Taiwan to face murder charges. In the one case the British government has opted to side with the war criminals and in the other with a common criminal and murderer. So much, then, for its adherence to the much touted human rights and rule of law!

Every intelligent worker would be able to see through the duplicity of the British ruling class and recognise its crocodile tears about the alleged erosion of the rule of law in Hong Kong for what they really are.

The extradition legislation proposed by the Hong Kong chief executive was intended to solve a real problem, and this was done on the Hong Kong government’s own initiative, not at the behest of the Chinese government as is being hinted at by imperialist politicians and media alike. These problems are going to crop up in the future too. Let us hope that sense will prevail over hysteria and that the Hong Kong authorities will be able to pass the necessary legislation after wider consultations.

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