Sat, May 04, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: HK extraditions a Chinese threat

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is sensitive about his portrayal in the news media and other publications. However, did Lam Wing-kei (林榮基), former manager of Hong Kong-based Causeway Bay Books, break any Hong Kong laws when he published books painting Xi in a bad light? Were his “crimes” sufficient reason for him to be taken secretly across the border into China, detained without charge for months, only to be released after being forced to promise to sell out his customers?

His failure to return to China and hand over a laptop with his customers’ data means he is considered a fugitive from justice.

While assurances were made at the time Britain handed Hong Kong over to China that Hong Kongers would not be extradited to China, if proposed amendments to Hong Kong law allow such extraditions, he would almost certainly be put on trial in Beijing.

However, he has no intention of letting that happen. He has moved to Taiwan. Is he now beyond Beijing’s reach? For how long?

The proposed law change obviously has worrying implications for Hong Kongers, but what does it mean for Taiwanese who offend Beijing and travel to Hong Kong to attend demonstrations, participate in forums or just for a vacation?

Taiwanese democracy advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) in 2017 was sentenced to five years in prison for holding online political lectures. He was in China when he was arrested. Had an extradition treaty between Hong Kong and China been in effect at the time, he could have faced the same fate, even if he had been in Hong Kong.

The proposed law change goes right to the heart of the “one country, two systems” idea. Beijing’s ability to extradite “undesirables” to face its legal system would further blur the distinction between “two systems” and perhaps even eradicate it altogether.

Hong Kong is an indicator of how the “one country, two systems” model would be run here should China ever succeed in annexing Taiwan. Xi has linked it to the so-called “1992 consensus” as a prerequisite for the resumption of cross-strait talks.

The “one country, two systems” model in Hong Kong is eroding. So far, changes have been introduced incrementally. However, the principle that the terms can be changed has been established, with the “local” — Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Legislative Council — government complicit.

However, if the system were established here, why would China need to be content with incrementalism?

Potential candidates in next year’s presidential campaign should not shy away from the implications of potential extradition proposals or unilateral changes that Beijing might seek.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) immediate rebuff of Xi after he linked the “1992 consensus” with “one country, two systems” saw her popularity rise. Her stance on the matter is clear, as is that of her competitor in the Democratic Progressive Party presidential primary, former premier William Lai (賴清德), who advocates Taiwanese independence.

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) — with his pro-China statements — and Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) — with his business dealings in China — should make it clear where they stand on the idea of “one country, two systems” as they contest the larger Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) primary. They should be concerned over potential extraditions of Taiwanese in Hong Kong to China given the lessons learned over the treatment of Lee, Lam and others.

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