英文

下一篇

Editorial : Fugitive law amendment beset by scepticism

【明報專訊】THE amendment bill for the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance is to be tabled to the Legislative Council for its first and second readings today (April 3). Despite numerous efforts made by the government to explain the amendment to the public, there are still many queries from the legal sector. Although the government stresses that the amendment is aimed at plugging legal loopholes and applies to all jurisdictions instead of being tailor-made for any particular place, some clauses in the bill are rather strange. By removing nine offenses that mainly involve white-collar crimes from the amendment, the government has not only hamstrung itself but also created a legal loophole. Moreover, the proposed standards against which to certify the documents and evidence supporting an extradition request also seem to have been lowered. The government's failure to offer any reasonable explanations for that has raised doubts about whether it is relaxing the relevant requirements. Supposedly, the government's purpose is to further enhance the law. Given the fact that the current bill is neither well-thought-out nor capable of dispelling doubts from the public, the government should consider prudently whether to push on with the amendment.

Over the past few days, there has been a chorus of opposition to the amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. According to the police, more than five thousand people took to the streets on Sunday in protest at the amendment. The next day a tycoon filed for judicial review, stating his objection to the content of the bill. Then yesterday the Hong Kong Bar Association released a statement questioning the bill's clauses and its rationale, saying the assertions made by the government had been misleading.

Once the bill for amending the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance is passed, all governments in the world can request on a case-by-case basis the transfer of fugitives who have allegedly committed any of the serious criminal offenses within the scope of the new mechanism. Due to the differences between the legal systems of different regions and huge discrepancies in the rule of law, the government should adopt stricter criteria for handling transfer requests so as to protect the rights of the people involved. However, the government has made a significant change to its clauses regarding the standards against which to certify the supporting documents and evidence provided by jurisdictions requesting extraditions. That has raised concerns about whether the authorities intend to adopt a looser set of requirements. Current clauses of the ordinance stipulate that documents pertaining to an extradition must be certified by the judicial officers of the jurisdictions requesting extraditions. But the bill suggests that all documents of future extradition requests should be deemed to be duly authenticated and accepted by Hong Kong as long as they have been signed, certified, sealed, or otherwise authenticated, "in a way provided for by the prescribed arrangements concerned".

All court documents should be authenticated in a strict manner to ensure that the documents provided by the side requesting any extradition are true and accurate. The authentication requirements stated in the current Fugitive Offenders Ordinance are common in the world of common law. Generally speaking, the authentication requirements get only stricter rather than looser as time passes. But the new rules will mean that in the future, extradition documents will not have to be signed and authenticated by judges or judicial officers, which, obviously, means looser requirements. People facing extraditions may have weakened protection as a result. Michael Blanchflower, former senior assistant director of public prosecutions, describes this as a "fundamental change" to the extradition law. So far the government has given no detailed explanations for the change, merely saying that it is a "technical" amendment. The unclear and obscure manner in which the authorities have handled the matter and the vague explanations they have offered will only compound public doubts.

明報社評2019.04.03:修逃犯例疑惑重重 政府說辭未能服眾

《逃犯條例》修訂草案今天提交立法會首讀及二讀,連日來政府花了不少唇舌解說,然而法律界仍然有不少質疑聲音。政府強調修例是要堵塞法律漏洞,適用於所有司法區而非為某地度身訂做,可是草案部分條文卻頗為奇怪,剔除9項多與經濟商業有關的罪行固然是自我設限,自製法律缺口;草案對於提出移交一方的文件和證據的核證標準,似乎亦較以往寬鬆,政府未有合理解釋,惹來自降要求的疑惑。政府修例目標理應是令法律更臻完善,現有草案既不周全,亦未能盡釋外界疑慮,政府應慎思是否繼續大力推動修訂。

過去數天,反對《逃犯條例》修訂的聲音此起彼落。警方表示周日有超過5000名市民上街,參與反對修例的遊行,翌日有富商申請司法覆核,對草案內容提出異議。及至昨天,香港大律師公會又發表聲明,質疑草案條文和理據,認為政府說辭誤導。

《逃犯條例》修訂一旦通過,意味世界各地政府都可以根據新機制所涵蓋的嚴重刑事罪行,以個案形式要求移交。由於各地法律制度不一,法治水平分野甚大,政府處理逃犯移交個案請求,理應從嚴而不是從寬,以保障當事人的權益。可是修例草案對於提出移交一方的文件和證據的核證標準,卻有重要改動,令人關注當局是否有意改採較目前寬鬆的要求。根據現行條文,移交文件必須有申請方的司法人員核證,然而草案提出,日後申請移交的任何文件,只要是按照「有關訂明安排所訂的方式」簽署、核證或蓋印等,即須視作已獲妥當認證,得到港方接納。

法庭文件必須嚴謹認證,確保要求提出移交一方文件真確無誤。現行《逃犯條例》所提出的認證要求,在普通法中相當常見,一般來說認證要求只會更嚴而不會放寬,可是新規定卻意味,以後移交文件不一定需要由法官或司法官員簽字認證,明顯較現行規定寬鬆,面臨移交者所得到的保障,有可能因此削弱。本港前高級助理刑事檢控專員白孝華認為,有關改動屬於「根本改變」。迄今政府一直未有詳細解釋修改原因,僅表示這是「技術」修訂。當局處理不明不白,解說不清不楚,只會添加公眾疑慮。

■Glossary

beset : to affect sb/sth in an unpleasant or harmful way

well-thought-out : carefully planned

a chorus of sth : the sound of a lot of people expressing approval or disapproval at the same time

上 / 下一篇新聞