HK extradition bill: lawmaker offers task force compromise after pro-establishment camp threat to force bill to full vote

14-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The pro-establishment lawmaker likely to chair the committee that is supposed to scrutinise Hong Kong’s contentious extradition bill has proposed a compromise solution, to avoid another chaotic showdown with opposition politicians in the legislature.

Paul Tse Wai-chun on Monday suggested a bipartisan task force be set up to study the bill, rather than taking the radical step of dissolving the committee and tabling it directly before the entire Legislative Council.

The city is facing an unprecedented political crisis over the government’s campaign to push ahead with the bill, which, if passed, would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions Hong Kong does not have an extradition agreement with, including mainland China.

But Tse, who is a lawyer, indicated on a radio programme on Monday that his preference was to take a less radical approach.

Hong Kong politics descended into chaos on Saturday as rival lawmakers clashed during a bills committee meeting.(SCMP)

Hong Kong politics descended into chaos on Saturday as rival lawmakers clashed during a bills committee meeting.(SCMP)

“If the pan-democrats can go back to rational discussions, I would choose to deal with this in a more rational way,” he said.

“So, how about choosing a middle path? To avoid rushing the bill to the council meeting directly and stop the chaos in the struggling committee.”

Tse believed the task force should comprise fewer lawmakers from both camps than the existing, 62-strong bills committee, so the bill can be examined in a more professional and in-depth way.

He said the task force members should be those who read through the new amendment, especially those with legal backgrounds, instead of ones who just chant radical anti-fugitive-law slogans.

As an example, Tse cited the creation of the existing law in 1997, which he said was approved in similar fashion.

“The discussions involved only six members through seven meetings,” Tse said. “This is what a real special task force should do. Lawmakers are given a chance to discuss matters professionally.

“This committee with 62 people is not doing what it’s supposed to do. It becomes a battlefield.”

But pan-democrat lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said a downsized bills committee would not be able to make any real changes to the government’s proposals.

“Once the Hong Kong people think the bill is political, it is very unlikely that the bills committee can have any real influence,” he said.

He said the government should deal with the issue in three stages, including withholding the amendment, talking to Taiwan about the single transfer of Chan Tong-kai, and lastly dealing with fugitive transfers between mainland China and Hong Kong.

Chan, a Hongkonger, is wanted in Taiwan for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend in Taipei. Having been jailed on related money-laundering charges in Hong Kong, he could be released as soon as October, a time frame which the government insists makes the bill’s passage urgent.

“Submitting the bill to the full council now will not just extend the clashes to the council, but to the whole of society and even outside Hong Kong,” Chu said. “There might be some countries supporting the Hong Kong government and some against it.”

Tse said the bill could be sent straight to the full council for debate and a vote, which would mean bypassing bills committee scrutiny a conventional step taken for most draft laws before being discussed and voted on by the full council.

Asked whether the pro-establishment camp supported the move, Tse said they would need to see how Tuesday’s Legco meeting, which has been arranged by the pro-government camp, goes.

Pan-democrats also plan to convene a meeting 15 minutes earlier in the same room, to try to gain control of the committee.



Category: Hong Kong

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