After a summer of escalating protests in Hong Kong it was announced today that the controversial proposal which would have opened the door to extradition with mainland China has been withdrawn. After widespread unrest the bill was suspended on 15 June 2019 but at that stage the Hong Kong authorities declined to formally withdraw the bill sparking further protest. Withdrawal of the extradition bill was one of a series of demands made by the protestors in Hong Kong. Opponents of the bill were concerned due to China’s poor record on human rights and fair trial and there were suspicions that it might be used to intimidate or silence critics of the regime in Beijing.
Hong Kong was formally handed back to China by Britain in 1997 but remains semi-autonomous under the so called “one country, two systems” principle and the introduction of the extradition bill was seen by many as another example of China seeking to exert greater control over Hong Kong. Documents from the time of the negotiations over the handover reveal the UK Government’s position at the time with regards to any extradition agreement, “It is government policy to only enter into extradition arrangements with governments whose judicial system, penal conditions, human rights standards are of an acceptable level.”
China’s record on human rights and justice has not improved since the 1990s and many observers fear that it may even have deteriorated further. Human Rights Watch observes that, “since President Xi Jinping assumed power in 2013, the government has arbitrarily detained and prosecuted hundreds of activists and human rights lawyers and defenders. It has tightened control over nongovernmental organizations, activists, media, and the internet through a slew of new laws that cast activism and peaceful criticism as state security threats.”
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Solicitor and specialist in extradition law