Any decision to extradite Jimmy Lai to stand trial in mainland China would be perfectly legal and reasonable, a law academic said on Wednesday as concerns surrounded the Next Digital founder’s prospects of being subjected to a notoriously opaque system.
Such a move would demonstrate if national security legislation passed in the summer was being successfully implemented in Hong Kong, and would have the effect of warning other people against breaking the law, the scholar Gu Minkang wrote in an article published in the pro-China newspaper Ta Kung Pao.
It was also questionable as to whether the Hong Kong judiciary was able to safeguard national security and adjudge cases strictly according to the law, said Gu, director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and a senior adviser at the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation.
He cited cases in which the High Court had ruled against the Hong Kong government. Earlier, the court found a government ban on wearing masks was unconstitutional and in breach of the Basic Law, and that riot police officers had violated the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance by hiding their identification numbers from public view.
Gu claimed that as residents were having doubts about some of their judges, “it would of course be reasonable and legal to hand Lai’s case in accordance with the law to the mainland judiciary to handle.”
He added: “The success or failure of this case concerns whether the national security legislation has well and truly taken root in Hong Kong and is really able to punish those who openly flout the law.”
Lai, 73, is charged with collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of life in jail.
Gu further branded Lai as one of the “chief commanders of the anti-China gang that incites unrest in Hong Kong” and “the No. 1 traitor who colludes with foreign forces,” pointing to his meetings with the United States vice president, secretary of state, congressmen and other senior officials in the Washington government. If the judges passed down a light sentence for such serious offenses, the national security law would be left with no credibility, he wrote.
The best way to eliminate these uncertainties was to invoke Article 55 of the national security law to handle the case, according to Gu.
Under Article 55, the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong shall, upon approval by the central authorities of a request from the Hong Kong government or the office, exercise jurisdiction if a major and imminent threat to national security has occurred.
The U.S. had been imposing sanctions on Chinese government officials, proving that “national security is in danger,” the scholar said, urging the central government to transfer Lai’s case to the judiciary in mainland China.
A former pan-democratic lawmaker said that Gu’s article was aimed at testing the waters, to see how there would be a huge backlash from the public if Lai was extradited and tried on the mainland.
It also served the purpose of “threatening Hong Kong people, making everyone bow to the suppression inflicted by the national security law and shutting us up,” Lam Cheuk-ting said.
“There’s no transparency in the mainland judicial system. Human rights and freedoms are non-existing. We must therefore continue to support and fight for Lai.”
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