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International lawyers call for suspension of extradition to Hong Kong amid crackdown

Anyone critical of the Hong Kong government could be arrested and extradited from several countries.

By Lu Xi and Hwang Chun-mei


Police wear face masks as they perform the "goose-stepping" foot drill during an open day to mark National Security Education Day, at Hong Kong Police College, in Hong Kong, April 15, 2021.

The International Bar Association (IBA)'s human rights wing has called on countries to suspend any extradition agreements with Hong Kong amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in the city. The call follows threats to U.K.-based rights group founder Benedict Rogers by Hong Kong's national security police, who issued a takedown order for the U.K.-based Hong Kong Watch rights website, threatening to pursue him under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020. "The last few years have seen a significant deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong as China’s grip on the city tightens," Anee Ramberg, who chairs the IBA's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), said in a statement. "The IBAHRI calls for the international community to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong to protect those attempting to protect human rights wherever they reside," she said, adding that the law is being used to silence rights activists both in Hong Kong and now overseas. "Human rights defenders must be able to do this important work without constant threats of imprisonment," Ramberg said. The Hong Kong national security police said in a letter to Hong Kong Watch CEO Benedict Rogers that he should "immediately cease engaging in any acts and activities in contravention of the national security law or any other laws of Hong Kong." The group has been highly critical of the CCP's rights record in Hong Kong, particularly following a city-wide crackdown on pro-democracy activists, opposition politicians and journalists under the national security law.

IBAHRI co-chair Mark Stephens said the threat to Rogers was a bid to "silence the voices of human rights defenders and chill the intentions of others." "[We condemn] the intimidation of the much-respected Hong Kong Watch," Stephens said. "If we do not stand up for human rights defenders now, and protect them from such attacks, including by suspending extradition treaties, there will not be many defenders left; this likely being the ultimate goal of China’s ruling group." More than 160 people have been arrested and dozens of civil society organizations forced to close since the national security law took effect. Currently, 20 countries have extradition agreements with Hong Kong, with some suspended, but many remaining active, the IBAHRI said. Extradition agreements remain active between Hong Kong and the Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and Sri Lanka, it said, warning that traveling to those countries puts anyone who might be a target of Hong Kong's draconian law at risk of arrest and extradition to face charges in Hong Kong. So far, Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States have suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong. "It's important that countries reconsider their extradition agreements, not simply because of my case, but in relation to anyone who the Hong Kong authorities might seek to have extradited, particularly exiled Hong Kong activists," Rogers told RFA in a recent interview. "I would echo their call, that countries should suspend their extradition agreements," he said. Hong Kong executive councilor Ronny Tong, a member of the city's cabinet, said the IBAHRI lacked understanding of Hong Kong judicial system, and accused it of "smearing Hong Kong." But U.S. lawyer Samuel Phillip Bickett, who was jailed in July last year for "assaulting a police officer" during the 2019 protests, told RFA following his release last week that he no longer has "any illusion that there is a functioning system of rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong." Bickett said he had done nothing wrong, has produced video footage of the alleged incident to prove it, and said the case against him was based on abuse of power, perversion of justice, and a string of "made-up" facts. Meanwhile, films about the 2019 mass protest movement in Hong Kong -- that began as a protest against plans to allow extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial mainland China -- are finding a fresh audience on the democratic island of Taiwan. The feature-length "Revolution of the Times" grossed NT$20 million at the box office following packed screenings at around 40 venues across Taiwan, and numbering Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) president Tsai Ing-wen among its fans. Meanwhile, fiction feature "May You Stay Forever Young" (2021) directed by Rex Ren has also proven popular. Both films are now banned in Hong Kong under the national security law. "It's hugely encouraging that we can screen the film in Taiwan, and that audiences can hear the story we wanted to tell in a public screening," Ren told journalists at a recent premiere, adding that he had chosen to remain in Hong Kong despite the risks. "We have the opportunity to reflect on what it means to represent Hong Kong film under this kind of political oppression," he said. "That's why we don't leave, because making Hong Kong films is important to us. Cantonese movie-making is important." Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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