US Congressional Committee on China (USCC) say proposed extradition law amendments pose "significant risks" to United States
On 7 May, the US China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) published a report saying proposed extradition law amendments pose "significant risks" to US economic interests and national security, as well as to the integrity of one-country, two-systems.
In the report, the USCC said: "The extradition bill could pose significant risks to U.S. national security and economic interests in the territory, and if passed and implemented may provide grounds for the United States to reexamine important elements of its current relationship with Hong Kong, as outlined in the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992."
Hong Kong Watch Trustees recently visited Washington DC and met with USCC, the State Department and the US House Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the amendments of Extradition Law and its implication on Hong Kong Policy Act and the extradition treaty between US and Hong Kong.
The USCC report continues: “The bill could potentially violate several key provisions of the act, which underscores U.S. support for Hong Kong’s human rights, democratization, and autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework. These include: (1) approving the continuation in force of all preexisting treaties from before the handover of Hong Kong to China, including the U.S.-Hong Kong extradition treaty, unless the “President determines that Hong Kong is not legally competent to carry out its [treaty] obligations”; and (2) that U.S. businesses “should be encouraged to continue to operate in Hong Kong,” in accordance with applicable U.S. and Hong Kong law.40 Section 202 of the act states that the president can, by executive order, suspend the application of any part of the Hong Kong Policy Act by “[determining] that Hong Kong is not sufficiently autonomous to justify treatment.” If the bill passes LegCo, which is likely given the pro-Beijing majority, it would remove legal protections in Hong Kong that preserve its well regarded rule of law and reputation as a global financial hub.
One major concern is that the bill could allow Beijing to pressure the Hong Kong government to extradite U.S. citizens under false pretenses. This could affect the estimated 85,000 U.S. citizens and over 1,300 U.S. firms in Hong Kong—about 300 of which base their Asia regional operations in the territory.
The recent spike in arbitrary detentions of U.S., Canadian, and other foreign citizens in China on questionable charges with a lack of access to a fair trial and due process highlight the risk the new law could pose to U.S. citizens.
Although the Hong Kong authorities have publicly stated their support for existing extradition treaties, including arrangements with the United States, the new law may be used to override those protections. With two competing approaches to extradition, Beijing may invoke the terms most favorable to their interests. Given the open question of Beijing’s interpretation of the extradition bill, three important considerations for Congress stand out:
• The U.S. extradition treaty with Hong Kong may require reexamination in light of Beijing’s erosion of the territory’s autonomy and new questions over the legal competence of the Hong Kong government to carry out its obligations under the treaty. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which is the basis of the U.S.- Hong Kong extradition treaty, guarantees Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” until 2047.
• With the heightened potential risks of extradition for U.S. Navy personnel in the territory if detained or arrested during routine port calls, the United States could consider alternative ports for rest and replenishment in the region.
• U.S. statements raising concerns about the bill’s implications for U.S. economic and national security interests, as well as visits to Hong Kong, could encourage the Hong Kong authorities to maintain preexisting human rights and political safeguards for extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Link for full USCC report: https://www.uscc.gov/Research/hong-kongs-proposed-extradition-bill-could-extend-beijings-coercive-reach-risks-united