There will be full consultation on the proposals on rendition arrangement between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Mainland prior to drafting of the bill to effect the arrangement, the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, reiterated today (April 13).
Speaking at a special meeting of the Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Security to discuss rendition, Mrs Ip noted the eventual proposal on rendition arrangement would have to be acceptable to the people of Hong Kong before it would be passed by the LegCo.
She also stressed that the Mainland authorities understood and accepted the consultative and legislative procedures of the Special Administrative Region Government (SARG).
Mrs Ip believed that misunderstanding had given rise to recent views and reports which criticised the SARG for conducting secretive negotiations with the Mainland departments, and keeping the people of Hong Kong in the dark. There were even accusations that the interests of Hong Kong people had been betrayed.
"The principles which the SARG follows in the discussion with the Mainland on the rendition arrangement are all public information. In dealing with the problem, the first consideration of the SARG is always to protect the 'One Country Two Systems' and the interests of the Hong Kong people.
"It is common sense that details of the process and content of the discussion are kept confidential. There is no conflict between confidentiality in this respect and the insistence of the principles stressed above," she said.
Mrs Ip went on to explain the detailed legislative procedures. She said that after the two sides had completed the discussion, the SARG would first consult LegCo, the legal sector and others on the proposed arrangement before commencing the drafting of the bill. The bill, when drafted, would then be submitted to LegCo for scrutiny and for commencement of the legislative process.
"This arrangement will allow all concerned the opportunity to be fully consulted. The Mainland departments understand our process and they accept that prior to the implementation of any rendition arrangement through legislation in the HKSAR, there must be a consultation phase," she stressed.
Noting that the implementation of any rendition arrangement must be underpinned by legislation passed by the LegCo, she reiterated that the eventual proposal would have to be acceptable to the people of Hong Kong before it would be passed by LegCo.
"There is absolutely no question of the HKSAR secretly and privately agreeing with the Mainland on the implementation of an arrangement that would jeopardise the interests of the Hong Kong people," she said, adding that LegCo would definitely play an important role in the rendition arrangement.
Mrs Ip revealed that since March last year, the SARG started to discuss the problem of rendition with the Mainland departments concerned. Four rounds of talks have been held since. The last one was held in Beijing on march 30 and 31.
Through these several rounds of discussions, the experts from both sides have gained more in depth understanding of the legal system and concepts of the other side. The SARG has also reflected fully to the Mainland authorities the concerns and views of the Hong Kong people.
She noted that because of the very significant differences in the legal systems of the two places, and that rendition arrangement involved very complex problems, the SARG had yet to complete the discussion with the Mainland authorities and would need to further discuss and study with the Mainland experts.
At present, the SARG does not have a firm time table as to when the discussion will be completed, and when the public consultation and legislation process will be undertaken.
Turning to the requests by some Members to disclose the so-called "bottom line" for the discussion with the Mainland, Mrs Ip explained that for discussion between governments, albeit within the same country, details of the discussion and the strategy were kept confidential during the process of the discussion.
"The eventual proposal will be announced after completion of the discussion and necessary public consultation and other procedures would then be undertaken. However, premature disclosure of the content of the discussion could seriously hamper the progress and strategy of the negotiation, she said.
The process of our current discussion with the Mainland government to institute a rendition arrangement is based on the same principle. At this stage, we have not yet completed our discussion, and it would be inappropriate to disclose details of the discussion," she said.
"The bottom line for negotiation is of course part of the negotiation strategy. Not disclosing the bottom line does not mean there is no bottom line," Mrs Ip stressed.
She pledged that on completion of the discussion, the SARG would make public the proposal and undertake consultation.
Although it is premature to disclose the bottom line, Mrs Ip did explain in detail to Members at the meeting the fundamental principles of the SARG for devising a rendition arrangement with the Mainland, which are:
(1) The arrangement should be consistent with the provision under Article 95 of the Basic Law which provides that the HKSAR may through consultations and in accordance with the law, maintain juridical relations with the other parts of the country, and they may render assistance to each other.
(2) The implementation of any rendition arrangement must be underpinned by legislation in the HKSAR.
(3) The rendition arrangement must be acceptable to both the HKSAR and the Mainland, and work in both directions.
(4) The rendition arrangement should take account of the One Country Two System principle and the differences in the legal and judicial systems of the two places. We should have mutual respect on each other's laws and systems. The arrangement should prevent criminals from escaping justice and also safeguard the rights of individuals. We have to strike a right balance between these two factors. The usual safeguards in our SFO Agreements with other jurisdictions will be useful reference of importance to us.
(5) The rendition arrangement should be consistent with Article 19 of the Basic Law. The HKSAR courts have jurisdiction over all offences committed in the HKSAR. Under the arrangement, we shall have to lay down guiding principles for dealing with the circumstances where both places would have concurrent jurisdiction.
End/Thursday, April 13, 2000