Extradition pitfalls

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Extradition pitfalls


The author is a deputy international, diplomatic and security team editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Korea has a criminal extradition pact with China. Hong Kong also cooperates with many countries, including Korea and the United States, on the issue. But the bill that gives China an excuse must not be passed.”

Olivia, who is from Hong Kong and now lives in Canada, emailed me. She contacted me to promote the supportive protests in Korea backing the complete abolition of the criminal extradition bill revision that the Hong Kong government has been pushing. Born in the early ’70s and moving to Canada in the ’80s, Olivia claimed that if the bill were passed, the firewall between Hong Kong and China would collapse and she couldn’t freely visit.

Just as Olivia said, Korea signed a criminal extradition pact with China in 2002. The extradition pact helps return criminals who fled to other countries for proper punishment. Since the criminal extradition act was legislated in 1988, Korea has signed extradition pacts with 79 countries, including the United States, Japan and the European Union.

The latest turmoil began from the loophole in the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance on the Chan Tong-kai case. As Hong Kong follows territorial privilege for jurisdiction, Chan could not be punished for killing his girlfriend in Taiwan. As Taiwan does not have a related pact, it can not bring him from Hong Kong. If the case had happened in Korea, Hong Kong would have requested extradition. But Chan is in a blind spot and will be released as early as October.

With two million people participating in the protests — the largest turnout in history — the Hong Kong government retracted the revision. Chief Executive Carrie Lam apologized for causing unrest and panic. She seems to understand that people were worried about the possible abuse of the law, as many call it an “extradition to China” bill. Nevertheless, she did not mention completely scrapping the law. If there are more cases like Chan’s, controversy over the bill will inevitably continue.

“Korea can have an extradition pact with China because Korea’s judiciary system is solid and independent,” Olivia said. Moreover, a New Zealand court refused to send China a Korean suspected of murdering a Chinese citizen, as fair trials can not be guaranteed in China. With the “One Country, Two Systems” principle only guaranteed until 2047, can Hong Kong say no to China? It is the Hong Kong government’s turn to answer the question from the citizens.
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