On the logic, tendency and nature of the “No Extradition to China” movement in Hong Kong

The ceremonial opening of Hong Kong’s legal year in January 2019.

International Editorial Committee: This is our translation of a Chinese-language article we originally published on 13 June 2019.

Contradiction between propaganda and reality

The ultimate justification for the “No Extradition to China” (NE2C) movement is the intense distrust and fear of the Communist Party of China (CPC) regime and its judicial system.

Yet this movement doesn’t stop at fear-mongering. The movement’s leaders’ wholesale rejection of the Hong Kong government’s amended “Fugitive Offenders” bill is also in fact taking direct aim at the core components of “One Country, Two Systems”.

Participants of the movement generally believe that since Hong Kong’s Chief Executive is elected by a small clique and appointed by Beijing, he/she would never reject any extradition request from Beijing, and moreover could never exercise due scrutiny on politically-sensitive cases.

This concern is understandable, yet misses the key points of the amended bill entirely. 

The amendments proposed a two-tiered gatekeeping system. After the Chief Executive decides to initiate the extradition process, the courts will have the power to determine the lawfulness of the extradition request. This power includes the rejection of requests on grounds of preventing political persecution, one of the eight conditions whereby the courts can deny requests to surrender alleged fugitives. 

The power of the Hong Kong judiciary would be manifested in two ways: 1) it would determine if there is sufficient prima facie evidence to justify the detention of an alleged fugitive; and 2) an alleged fugitive would have the right to apply for habeas corpus (with the right of appeal all the way to the Court of Final Appeal) or judicial review, where the courts would determine the lawfulness of the extradition request and the order of committal. Only after the completion of these judicial processes would the Chief Executive then decide whether to accede to the requests to surrender alleged fugitives.  

The foundation of Hong Kong’s judicial system is the protection of private property and those individual rights without which capitalism cannot function properly. For the pan-democrats, localists, independentists and even the Hong Kong government, the “progressive” and “safe” aspect of the judicial system lies in the fact that it is controlled by a pro-Western community and not the CPC. The judicial system in Mainland China, controlled by the CPC’s Committees of Political and Legal Affairs with its emphasis on the defence of state power stands in sharp contrast to the judicial system in Hong Kong. 

A capitalist legal system run by pro-Western elements is one of the key components of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong. Furthermore, the essence of “One Country, Two Systems” lies in a compromise between the CPC bureaucratic regime and the domestic and foreign bourgeoisie. The legal form of this compromise is Hong Kong’s Basic Law, enacted under the provisions of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

In other words, the NE2C movement not only expresses distrust towards the CPC regime and the Chief Executive it appoints, it also denies the gatekeeping abilities of the Hong Kong courts. The methods of fear-mongering and treating the amended bill as empty rhetoric can only stand on this premise. 

If this is indeed the case, then why not also treat the Basic Law as a meaningless document, or even just a cover for the CPC’s violent outrages? It then follows that since the CPC regime is not bound by any notions of legality or morality, genuine “Rule of Law”, “Freedom” and “Democracy” can only be achieved by a complete separation from the Mainland. 

Therefore, although the NE2C movement ostentatiously inscribed “‘Defend HK’s Rule of Law” and “Defend One Country, Two Systems” on its banners, in reality it directs the sharp edge of its blows towards “One Country, Two Systems” itself. Repudiation of “One Country, Two Systems” under the prevailing balance of forces could only lead to one of these two outcomes: 1) “One Country, One System”, where the CPC regime directly implements the Mainland system in Hong Kong; 2) “Hong Kong Independence”. The objective tendency of the NE2C movement tends towards the latter, but it may well result in the former.

On the scales measuring this power struggle are not only the weights representing the HK government and the NE2C camp: all the forces the CPC regime and Western imperialist powers can throw into the action will also be counted. The current events in Hong Kong have never been solely determined by factors within Hong Kong itself. 

Who are being targeted by the Fugitive Offenders bill?

A. Anti-communist political activists?

It is common knowledge that many core activists of the pan-democratic, localist and independentist camp do not even have a Mainland Travel Permit, and had no chance to “commit crimes” there. For those activists who operate in the Mainland, the CPC regime can arrest them on the spot and spare themselves the trouble of requesting extradition from the HK government. Albert Chen Hung-yee, a pro-Establishment legal authority has pointed out that the CPC regime would not use the Fugitive Offenders bill to deal with politically-sensitive cases and risk being declared culpable of political repression by the courts in Hong Kong. As a matter of fact, the CPC regime has always used its “own” methods in dealing with political opponents and never cared for the facade of Western rule of law. 

This is of course not to say that the CPC does not engage in political repression, but to merely point to the fact that the Fugitive Offenders bill proposed by the Hong Kong government, with its mechanism directly involving the Chief Executive, incorporating the right to judicial review and express provisions against political persecution etc, would probably be the most awkward, and almost self-harming means of repression imaginable.  

If the CPC regime wants to terminate political freedoms in Hong Kong, there is a much more simple way: end “One Country, Two Systems”, abrogate the Basic Law and directly implement the Mainland’s political system in Hong Kong. Just under what conditions would the CPC regime resort to these extreme measures? When it believes that “One Country, Two Systems” can no longer function as society descends into large-scale unrest.  

The leaders of the NE2C movement tell their supporters that only by escalating their actions, to the extent of paralysing Hong Kong’s government, can they “keep One Country, Two Systems”. However, the actual outcome could very well be the opposite.

B. Hong Kong’s big bourgeoisie?

The billionaire Joseph Lau Luen Hung, sentenced in absentia to just over five years in prison in Macau for bribery and money laundering, withdrew his application for a judicial review on the Fugitive Offenders bill after the HK government announced raising the sentencing threshold to seven years or above and other conditions whereby surrender requests would be rejected. On top of this, the HK government responded to the representations by the organisations of the domestic and foreign bourgeoisie by exempting nine offences which they claimed they could not avoid committing in the Mainland. It should be noted that the HK government did not remove corruption, bribery, the possession or laundering of embezzled money from the list of offences, due to it being a party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. This leads us to…

C. The scions of the Mainland bureaucracy and billionaires living in Hong Kong?

In his denunciation of the Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a session of the Legislative Council, pan-democratic legislator Au Nok-hin stated that the passing of the Fugitive Offenders bill would force this group to move their wealth away from Hong Kong, causing serious damage to the finance and real estate sectors and thus harm the entire economy.

Under the amended bill, only big shots who have committed serious corruption, bribery, possession or laundering of embezzled money, punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more could be extradited to the Mainland. A wave of capital flight that could destabilise Hong Kong’s financial and real estate markets? Just imagine the sheer scale of unjust riches. 

D. Western and Taiwan citizens resident/travelling in Hong Kong?

The Western imperialist powers and the Taiwan government made high profile declarations of either serious concern or determined opposition to the bill. They claimed that its passage into law would affect the freedom and safety of their citizens who are living or travelling in Hong Kong. 

Do not forget: hundreds of thousands of citizens from Western countries and nearly two million Taiwanese live on the Mainland, many times more enter and leave the Mainland year after year. If the authorities in the West and Taiwan believe that the CPC’s judicial system presents a clear and present danger to their citizens, they should issue travel warnings or even organise a wholesale evacuation of their citizens living on the Mainland, rather than expressing their concerns about the possibility of their citizens being extradited to the Mainland via the Fugitive Offenders bill.

NB: Only those who are suspected of committing one or more of the 37 listed offences and punishable to seven years or more of imprisonment could be considered for extradition. We may deduce that within this demographic, a portion of those who have Western or Taiwan citizenship would fit into the profile C above.    

Conclusions

Unless “Hongkongers” and their offspring are all felons who could be sentenced to seven or more years in prison, the Fugitive Offenders bill would hardly touch 99% of the Hong Kong people. However, the genuine fear of the 1% (or even less) has become a true, albeit simulated, scare for the entire population.

On the one hand, this shows the prowess of the ideological propaganda apparatus of the pan-democratic camp and the utter political bankruptcy of the pro-Beijing establishment in comparison. 

On the other hand, the NE2C movement exhibits this social pathology: in the extreme capitalist society that is Hong Kong, the masses of youth seem to be less worried about being exploited and oppressed by their bosses and ending up broken and skint, than being personally targeted by the CPC regime: going through, one-by-one, a litigation process all the way up to the Court of Final Appeal, and eventually renditioned to a Red dungeon by the Chief Executive. (Since when has the judiciary given such “privileges” to the average prole?) Indeed, this is a movement many bosses have approved by the granting of annual leave to employees who wish to participate. 

Extreme capitalist exploitation in Hong Kong did not give rise to a socialist resistance movement. On the contrary, it spawned a mass movement that complain loudly about the potential injustice that the scions of bureaucrats and billionaires who have fled the Mainland may face, notwithstanding the irony that these refugees are the freakish by-products of Hong Kong-style extreme capitalism in the Mainland.  

The leaders of the pan-democratic “left” who loudly equate the Western rotation of monied factions via elections by universal suffrage with “democracy”, and promote the idea that this is the basis of all social progress, must bear the direct responsibility for this situation. However, those “patriotic leftists” who have long abandoned any socialist perspective, dismiss any talk of reforms, approve extreme capitalism, who can only call on people to get rich in the Mainland and fantasise about crushing the “wasted youth” with the Army and the Police; as well as the CPC bureaucratic regime which prescribes the Hong Kong working masses a subservient role to the interests of the “national bourgeoisie”, must bear the ultimate and greatest share of political responsibility.

In the absence of the methods, standpoint and worldview of scientific socialism and their organised expression, the masses of youth lack the knowledge and ability to fight their own exploitation and oppression. As a result, they have projected their nameless repression and frustration onto the imagined “Hongkonger” community that the pan-democrats, localists and independentists have prepared for them, which then crystallised into a street movement for anti-communist “self-determination”. 

This movement has nothing to do with freedom and democracy, and has everything to do with bringing Hong Kong down to the dead-end of Ukraine, Syria and Libya.

Our time is crying out for a socialist movement through which workers break away from the ideological domination of all propertied classes, and working people across the world unite to end capitalism. 

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