segunda-feira, 26 de outubro de 2009

Questões perturbadoras na extradição de Zhou Y.

Zhou extradition raises disturbing questions

Frank Ching (*)
South China Morning Post
October 26, 2009

At the press conference following the policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was asked: "Did the Hong Kong government return Zhou Yongjun, a student leader from Tiananmen, to mainland authorities rather than send him back to Macau, as his family alleged a few days ago?"

The chief executive responded that Hong Kong, "like every other government," is unable to comment on individual immigration cases. "Anyone who travels with a false document will be treated accordingly. He'll be sent back to wherever is appropriate. That is established policy."

Actually, that isn't quite the case. Three days previously, in response to media enquiries concerning this case, the government issued a statement that said in part: "In general, a passenger whose travel document does not meet the entry requirements will be repatriated to his or her place of embarkation or origin."

So, following established policy, Zhou should have been sent back to Macau. After all, he had arrived from Macau bearing a Malaysian passport in the name Wang Xingxiang. Hong Kong authorities suspected, correctly it turned out, that there was a problem with his passport. But, instead of sending him back to Macau, he was sent to Shenzhen. Why?

Democratic Party Chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is Zhou's legal representative, is threatening to sue the government. He called the case, which has been widely publicised internationally, the biggest challenge to the "one country, two systems" policy. It is certainly giving Hong Kong a bad name.

Many have asked why Zhou, who has an American green card, was not sent back to the US.

But, it appears, the Hong Kong authorities may not have known that Zhou was a green card holder. In fact, they may not have known the Tiananmen connection. Still, why send him to Shenzhen?

It turns out that the mainland public security authorities had been looking for a Wang Xingxiang. The Chinese security authorities had issued a warrant on July 25, 2000, for the arrest of Zhang Hongbao, who the police said had assumed the name Wang Xingxiang.

Zhang was the founder of the Zhong Gong qigong organisation, which at one time had more followers than Falun Gong. The organisation operated businesses and held vast assets. But both Falun Gong and Zhong Gong were banned in 1999. Zhang fled to the US where, in addition to being a spiritual leader, he called himself president of China's "shadow government". He was killed in a car crash in 2006, and reportedly left substantial assets under different names in various countries.

Zhou had worked for Zhang. After Zhang's death, Zhong Gong held a press conference, which was chaired by Zhou. Since then, there have been reports of disputes over Zhang's assets, including a Hang Seng Bank account with more than HK$13 million.

The indictment against Zhou in Sichuan accuses him of having sent a letter to Hang Seng Bank requesting the transfer of HK$4 million held in the name Wang Xingxiang.

It seems likely that the Hong Kong police knew that mainland authorities were looking for a Wang Xingxiang who was wanted for criminal, not political, offences.

Still, there is no rendition, or extradition, agreement between Hong Kong and the mainland. In this case, when a person arrived in Hong Kong holding a questionable passport, the proper thing to do, as the government has said repeatedly, was to return him to where he had come from.

The alternative was to arrest Zhou, or Wang, and bring him to trial in Hong Kong. There is no legitimate reason to have him sent to the mainland. Even if the name Wang Xingxiang had been on an Interpol warrant, the usual procedure would be to put him under arrest here, with a view to extradition to the country sought him. He would not have been extraditable to the mainland.

Hong Kong violated its own established policy. The question is why?

(*) Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator

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