How could China have extradited people for political reason under the extradition law it wanted to pass in Hong Kong? According to a news outlet, the extradition law had the following clause:

Once the court decides that there is no political motive behind the extradition request, and that there is sufficient prima facie evidence that there is a possible case, it can then make an order of committal. At this point, the suspect can appeal.


How would the Chinese government have used the law to extradite political dissents given the cited clause? Is there a way China could have done it?

  • Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. If you would like to answer, please write a real answer which adheres to our quality standards.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 13:13
  • 2
    How is it looking to you now, 17+ months on ? Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 11:56

5 Answers 5


It's true there is a clause stating extradition from Hong Kong to China cannot be based on political motives. However, there are worries the Chinese government would fabricate charges just to get dissidents over to China, as they have done or tried to do before. In general, it's very problematic to determine whether the charges are truly not political.

There is also no guarantee of a fair and democratic judiciary process in China.

To read more, I recommend reading these articles:

A proposed extradition law triggers unrest in Hong Kong

Hong Kong-China extradition plans explained

What is Hong Kong’s extradition bill?

  • 21
    Just 2-3 years ago a handful of high profile "disappearances" happened and basically resulted in multiple instances of people mysteriously ended up in China (e.g.: didn't officially crossed customs) and then publicly saying they "used special methods" to go back to China to "deal with personal businesses". At least one of them had foreign citizenship but refused to file any sort of police report or request assistance from their embassy. This is before the extradition bill, and it is already being done. It can't possibly get better after the bill.
    – Nelson
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 4:25

The key is that extradition hearings are not trials that establish innocence or guilt. From your quote, the requirement for extradition is that there is:

sufficient prima facie evidence that there is a possible case

To people who think that China is willing to occasionally forge evidence and hold mock trials, that is equivalent to "prolonged imprisonment or death, as long as China makes an effort to come up with an excuse".

It doesn't matter if that is or isn't what's going to happen, as long as enough people think that it is, due to the comparatively poor reputation of China's legal system [citation needed].


TL;DR: By charging them under non-political charges (whether fabricated or real), of course. However, it is not clear to me that they would actually do so.

Not playing devil's advocate here, but I would like to point out some finer details that people have not yet mentioned.

The concern that politically motivated extradition may happen under the proposed bill is certainly valid. Many political dissidents in China were arrested under non-political offenses: artist Ai Weiwei under economic crimes, lawyer Zhao Lianhai under the crime of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" (寻衅滋事), etc. These are perfectly valid concerns, and not only w/ regards to China! In the case of Julian Assange, for example, many have believed that the Swedish sexual assault investigations against Assange were conducted at least in part to get him sent over to the U.S.

Of course, comparing to the (according to many) already notorious U.S. criminal justice system, the Chinese judicial system has an even worse reputation (and for a good reason) for not following accepted criminal investigation standards in many cases, both political and apolitical, making the aforementioned concerns even more valid.

However, it seems to me that this is mostly a theoretical possibility. For most Chinese dissidents, the way to get them arrested would not be legally arresting them and sending them to the police or a People's Procuratorate Office. In the 2015 Hong Kong bookstore disappearances, those who disappeared were never arrested at all! In fact, very few political dissidents were legally arrested.

Therefore, it is very unclear that the extradition bill would be used extensively in a political fashion: the Chinese government have been mainly using extra-judicial measures to capture and arrest dissidents anyways, and regardless of whether an extradition bill exists, they would just continue to do what they have done it. If they can do it without going through a long extradition procedure, why would they have the motivation to go through it? (Think: how many Guantanamo detainees were actually presented with an arrest warrant and given a Miranda wraning, or captured in battle and informed of their rights under the Geneva Conventions?)

In conclusion, while there is a real possibility that the bill might be used to extradite people under political intentions, the fears that the extradition bill would be used extensively for political purposes and is mainly politically intentioned are mostly unfounded. Surely, in theory that there are plenty of ways that people can be extradited to mainlanc China if the bill comes into force, but in case real political "extradition" happens, it is likely to be extra-judicial, rendering discussion about the aforementioned theoretical possibilities moot.

  • Such a law could be intended to save face, to make it harder for others to expose the injustice.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 19:47

It would be very difficult for China to extradite anyone as Hong Kong does have political autonomy and an autonomous legal system. Even if the Chinese government did forge documents, the extradition request can be denied on other grounds and the process could take years, and it's unlikely for the Chinese government to pursue an extradition case against an ordinary citizen for political reasons.

If the justice department determines that the conditions are met, then it goes before Hong Kong’s chief executive, who can decide whether to veto or proceed with the extradition request. At this point, the suspect can apply for judicial review, with a right to appeal in the city’s highest court. If the request proceeds, an arrest warrant is issued, after which the subject is immediately barred from leaving Hong Kong. Once the subject is arrested, the case moves to the courts, where a preliminary hearing is held. Once the court decides that there is no political motive behind the extradition request, and that there is sufficient prima facie evidence that there is a possible case, it can then make an order of committal. At this point, the suspect can appeal.

With the judicial process over, the request goes back to the chief executive, who can again decide to deny the extradition request on humanitarian grounds. Here, the subject can petition the chief executive to oppose extradition. Should the chief executive decide to proceed with the extradition, an extradition order is given. At this stage, the suspect can again appeal to the courts to stop the extradition. If the suspect decides not to appeal, or if the appeal is unsuccessful, the suspect is extradited. The process could take years, which is typical of extradition proceedings.


As you can see, there are many checks that would make extradition extremely difficult. Here's a summary:

  1. The chief executive decides to proceed with the extradition request
  2. The suspect applies for judicial review
  3. The suspect appeals in the city's highest court
  4. The court decides that there is no political motive behind the extradition request
  5. The suspect appeals in the city's highest court
  6. The chief executive decides if there's a humanitarian ground to deny the extradition request
  7. The suspect appeals to the courts to stop the extradition
  • 1
    Doesn't China have a veto on the Hong Kong Chief executive election pool?
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 20:19
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    @JJJ No they don't have a Veto, they preapprove each candidate as well as those who are eligible to vote. No Veto is required.
    – Aron
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 3:40
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    There is no need for veto. The candidates are approved by China. You can't run if China don't want you to.
    – Nelson
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 4:28
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    There is not really "preapproval" to run; pan-democratic candidates have ran in every competed Chief Executive election. However, since the pro-Beijing faction has a huge numerical advantage in the Electoral Commission, they have won the election every time. This is not exactly the same as a veto, but similar; if Beijing does something that angers even the firmly pro-Beijing elites, there is at least a theoretical possible that a candidate unacceptable to Beijing would be elected (of course, still only theory).
    – xuq01
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 7:29
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    Your answer is at a minimum naive and/or disingenuous. China will do what China wishes. They desire to have the stamp of formal legal due process on their actions. Their aim is the protection of the people and the country from reactionaries, <insert own long list here, ... > . If they can achieve this by due process, so much the better. || See if you can 'explain' the presence of in the order of 1 million Uighur ethnicity, China born and bred, Chinese citizens in "reeducation" facilities. If you can do so plausibly while keeping a straight face then "disingenuous" was too polite, by far. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 10:40

The question, if intended to be taken seriously, is extremely naive.
China will do what China wishes.
They desire the stamp of legal due process on their actions if achievable. If not then "needs must".

Their aim is the protection of the people & the country from reactionaries, & (insert own long list here, ... ).

Consider the following two highly relevant examples. These are not directly related to Hong Kong but provide ample and clear examples of how China thinks and acts in similar cases.

  1. Consider the 'compulsory presence' (currently) of in the order of 1 million Uighur ethnicity, China born and bred, Chinese citizens in "reeducation" facilities. Presumably this was done legally & under due process. The vast majority of these people will be crimeless "ordinary citizens" in brainwashing facilities. Hong Kong? No problem. NB: I could very easily provide large numbers of plausible good quality references. I will not do so. I imagine that such links would at a minimum not be welcome and also would probably cause trouble with/from some site users. If you do not know about this then Methusaleh is an extremely poor eponym :-) :-(. A simple web search will provide large amounts of material.

  2. If you are constitutionally robust (you have been warned) you may wish to look up web pages on the treatment of Falan Dafa (Falangong). Again, no references provided - even more so than for the Uighur situation.

Tibet shall not, of course, be mentioned.

  • 1
    -2. Wow. Fewer China watchers here than I'd have expected. ||FWIW - I have visited China many times. I am a friend of all of the Chinese people and "of China" (both "mainland" and Hong Kong in this context) - and of all other people. I understand as well as I may with my western mindset the concerns that the Chinese government have re the potential destabilisation of what they (probably sincerely) consider to be the right and proper way of doing things. I'm impressed at what they have not yet done in this case - and am fearful of 'where things are going'. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 23:56

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