Scrap proposed amendments to extradition laws, guarantee the right to peaceful assembly

Press release

(Hong Kong, Paris) The Hong Kong government should immediately withdraw proposed legislation aimed at amending the Special Administrative Region’s (SAR’s) extradition laws, FIDH and Human Rights in China (HRIC) urged today. The proposed bill is inconsistent with international customary law and Hong Kong’s obligations under international human rights instruments applicable to the SAR.

“The extradition bill poses a grave threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law and judicial independence. The bill does not contain adequate safeguards and protections to ensure that defendants are not extradited to jurisdictions where detainees are routinely subjected to torture and ill-treatment and criminal trials are systematically unfair. The government should heed the well-founded domestic and international concerns and immediately scrap the bill.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Vice-President

The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill was first announced by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 and then introduced in the SAR’s parliament, the Legislative Council, on 3 April 2019 to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance. The proposed amendments would allow the extradition of suspects from Hong Kong to jurisdictions - such as mainland China - with which the SAR does not have bilateral extradition agreements.

Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), declares that a state party to the convention should not expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite persons to another jurisdiction where there are “substantial grounds” for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture. Provisions of the CAT are applicable to the SAR.

The principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits extraditing someone to a jurisdiction where his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is also a generally accepted principle of customary law that applies universally.

In addition, the extradition of individuals from Hong Kong, which abolished the death penalty, to jurisdictions - such as mainland China - in which they may face capital punishment, is contrary to Article 6 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the SAR is bound.

From 27 May to 4 June 2019, FIDH conducted a mission to Hong Kong to assess the human rights situation in the SAR. During the mission, FIDH met with a broad range of stakeholders, including human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, lawyers, and legislators, to hear their concerns about the current human rights situation in Hong Kong. All interlocutors expressed concern over the negative impacts that the adoption of the proposed extradition bill could have on the political, economic, and human rights situation in Hong Kong.

In recent months, legislators, judges, lawyers, journalists, Hong Kong-based foreign consulates, students, activists, unions, and the business sector expressed their opposition to the proposed legislation.

On 9 June 2019, an estimated one million people marched in the streets of Hong Kong to express their opposition to the proposed law. It was the third and largest anti-extradition bill demonstration held in Hong Kong in recent months, after the 31 March and 28 April 2019 protests. While demonstrations were predominantly peaceful, clashes between police and small groups of protestors occurred towards the end of the 9 June rally. Thousands of protestors remained in the areas around Hong Kong’s Central Government Complex and the Legislative Council from 10 to 12 June. In the afternoon of 12 June, police in riot gear fired tear gas and rubber bullets to violently disperse protestors and clear the area. At least 81 people were reported injured during the clearance operation.

FIDH and HRIC urge authorities in Hong Kong to guarantee that individuals are able to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and that the policing of public protests is conducted in accordance with international standards.

According to the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, law enforcement officials “may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.” The Basic Principles also stipulate that whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials should “exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense” and “minimize damage and injury.”

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