banner news

Extradition bill ‘has many safeguards’

Hong Kong, 2 April 2019: Colin Cohen has called on the public to show more trust in Hong Kong’s courts amid opposition to the government’s plan to allow the transfer of fugitives to mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.

Critics of the draft legislation have voiced concerns over the mainland’s judicial system and claim defendants could be extradited for political reasons, although Hong Kong officials have stressed this would not happen.

“I have been involved in many extradition hearings and, if you read what the government is proposing, then you will see that many safeguards are built into the bill,” said Mr Cohen, Senior Partner in Boase Cohen & Collins.

“First of all, the Chief Executive has to give authority to proceed, then you have a hearing at Magistrate’s Court where you can advance numerous arguments against extradition and, even if the magistrate decides against you, the case can still be taken to the High Court and all the way if necessary to the Court of Final Appeal.

“One reason that I enjoy handling extradition cases is that you have a wealth of arguments you can put before the court on behalf of your client. You can argue that the charges are trumped up or political or that your client will not get a fair trial in the requesting country. We have experienced magistrates and judges in Hong Kong and I believe we have to show some faith in our courts.”

Mr Cohen was speaking on RTHK Radio 3’s Backchat programme this morning amid controversy over the government’s plan to amend two laws – the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance. The amendment bill will be tabled at the Legislative Council tomorrow (Wednesday).

About 12,000 people took part in a protest rally on Sunday while human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have also voiced their opposition. The bill was watered down last week following criticism from the business sector, with the government agreeing to exclude nine white-collar crimes.

The trigger for the amendment was a murder case in Taiwan last year in which the suspect returned home to Hong Kong after the alleged killing of his girlfriend. Hong Kong authorities currently have no legal means to extradite him.

Mr Cohen said he sympathised with people who felt there should be more time for the public and interested bodies to be consulted about such an important piece of legislation. “I do agree it appears this bill is being rushed through and I think this is because of the Taiwan case. Certainly, I would have preferred to see much more public consultation,” he told Backchat presenters Danny Gittings and Ada Wong.

“However, at the end of the day you are only talking about extraditing people accused of some pretty serious offences. And these are offences that have to be recognised as serious not only in the requesting country, but also in Hong Kong.”

Also appearing on the programme were Executive Councillor Ronny Tong, who is in favour of the bill, and pro-democracy politician Emily Lau and Progressive Lawyers’ Group Convenor Billy Li who are opposed to it.

Mr Cohen is a regular guest on Backchat, offering a legal perspective on notable news stories. Previous topics have included Hong Kong’s data protection laws, insurance cover for Uber drivers, the legal rights of airline passengers who are bumped off flights, and aggressive sales practices by fitness chains.

Extradition PHOTO

Colin Cohen during his appearance on RTHK Radio 3’s Backchat today. Photograph courtesy of Backchat