Opposition to the Hong Kong government's proposed extradition law that will allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China appears to be growing. In March, some 12,000 Hong Kongers marched in protest against the proposed legislation, according to organisers. Last month, the number of protesters swelled to 130,000 at another rally. Another march is planned for June 9. Emotions have also run high in the Legislative Council (LegCo) - dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers - as a committee meeting to vet the Bill saw scuffles between opposing camps. Yet apart from removing nine white-collar crimes that were listed - in response to the business community - the government is adamant about passing the legislation without making further changes to address the worries of residents, activists and critics, and plans to expedite the process by bypassing the committee vetting procedure.
Hong Kong has extradition arrangements with 20 countries. But its fugitives law, enacted before the city's handover to China in 1997, does not allow the transfer of suspects to the mainland as it states that the legislation does not apply to "any other part" of China. This exclusion is being removed. The amended law will, among other things, also transfer the authority to initiate an extradition from the LegCo to the Chief Executive. The reason cited by the government for the changes was that the existing law prevents Hong Kong from handing over to Taiwan a Hong Kong resident sought for allegedly killing his girlfriend there last year. Hong Kong regards Taiwan as part of China. Taiwan, for its part, said it will not seek the suspect's return if the law is passed as the legislation puts Taiwanese individuals within China's reach.