At a closed-door meeting with Hong Kong lawmakers on Sunday, more than a dozen foreign envoys may have said they had deep-seated concerns over a controversial extradition bill, but pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung knows their faces were really saying, “bring on that sweet, sweet extradition.”
Speaking on an RTHK radio program on Tuesday, audio of which was reposted by Apple Daily, Leung herself admitted that none of the foreign consuls she spoke to said they supported the amendments, and acknowledged that at least half of the group of more than 30 envoys had expressed “concerns.”
“But,” she added, “it’s obvious from their facial expressions that they mean ‘we hope you will win this, and that the bill will pass through the legislature smoothly.'”
The extradition bill in question — which would allow renditions to the mainland for the first time since the handover — has been universally slammed outside of pro-Beijing circles for its potential to ensnare Hongkongers and foreign nationals alike in the mainland’s opaque legal system. Indeed, several foreign governments have already been very outspoken in their opposition to the law, including the US, the EU, and Taiwan, whom the government insists the bill is designed to help.
In fact, RTHK reports that a number of envoys present at Sunday’s meeting said their countries were reviewing their bilateral relations with Hong Kong in light of the looming amendments.
But Leung wasn’t fooled by all those formal diplomatic notes, congressional commission reports, and sharply worded statements of opposition. Oh no, Leung knows what those envoys really want: extradition, baby.
Leung has been on a bit of a roll lately, having claimed last week that a decision to show a Cathay ad featuring a gay couple holding hands in the MTR and at the airport had created a “chilling effect” in the city.
Unsurprisingly, Leung’s latest comments opened her up to ridicule from Hong Kong’s netizens yet again, with some referring to her by her unfortunate nickname “the Rat Queen,” a reference to a publicity event she organized in 2008 to catch mice in the West Kowloon constituency she represents.
“Has the Rat Queen swallowed some rat poison?” one asked. “I think it’s working, she’s starting to talk nonsense!”
Others joked that in addition to being a lawmaker and associate professor at City University’s law department, Leung can also add “face reader” to her CV.
It’s difficult to overstate just how unpopular the extradition bill is. So far it has been criticized not just by the usual pro-democracy figures, but also by the business community, lawyers, clergy, foreign governments, and some 130,000 citizens who turned up for a march protesting the bill. In just the last week, several judges and thousands of students, teachers, and alumni at scores of local schools also joined the crowd.
Their fears aren’t unfounded. The Telegraph reported in 2016 that China’s courts have a conviction rate higher than 99.9 percent.
Opposition within the legislature’s pro-democracy camp has been so fierce that scuffles broke out in the parliamentary chamber at a hearing of the committee tasked with reviewing the bill. Since then, pro-Beijing officials have snatched the bill out of the committee’s hands, and are planning to send it to the full Legco assembly next month.
RTHK reported this morning that lawmakers will debate a motion of no confidence against Chief Executive Carrie Lam today in a bid to get the government to back down over the amendments.
While the opposition initially seemed to have only strengthened the government’s resolve to force the bill through, in recent days officials have hinted at the possibility of conceding to some of critics’ demands.
Meanwhile, earlier today property tycoon Joseph Lau — who is wanted over a bribery conviction in Macau, which is also covered by the bill — decided to drop his legal challenge to the extradition amendments. Lawyers representing the billionaire issued a statement cryptically stating that Lau “loves his Country and Hong Kong,” and hoped that the move was “conducive to reducing the disputes in our society,” RTHK reports.