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2019-05-15 HKT 04:38
Britain's minister for Asia has told Parliament his country is "deeply concerned" at the Hong Kong government's attempts to push through changes to the extradition law that would open up the possibility of suspects being sent to the mainland for trial.
Mark Field faced questions from government and opposition lawmakers over the extradition proposals, which have prompted scuffles in the Legislative Council and the SAR's biggest street protest in five years.
"We have noted with great concern the widespread concern in Hong Kong about the proposed changes, including the protests of 28 April and the disorder on the floor of Legco in relation to the extradition laws that are currently going through," Field said, in response to a question from opposition lawmaker Barry Sheerman.
"We are considering the potential implications, including how they may affect UK citizens, and will push to ensure that one country, two systems remains intact."
Asked by Fiona Bruce of the governing Conservative Party whether the extradition changes risked undermining Hong Kong's role as an international financial centre, Field said: "The one country, two systems model needs to work well, and it is in China’s interest for that to happen, not least for the reasons she pointed out about the importance of Hong Kong as an international financial capital."
Meanwhile a group of Canadian lawmakers issued a statement describing the extradition proposal as a "profoundly worrying development".
The proposed law change would see the chief executive given the power to instigate proceedings to send fugitives to any jurisdiction on a one-off basis, even when there is no extradition arrangement in place.
Supporters of the bill say it would close a legal loophole. They point out it would only cover specific, serious offences, and that the courts would have the final say on any extradition.