In the run-up to the 1997 handover, the issue of surrendering suspects to China was discussed and, according to participants in the negotiations, intentionally excluded. This contradicts the Hong Kong government’s assertion that the bill is needed to close an overlooked "loophole."
The problems with the bill have been comprehensively outlined. Tom Kellogg has noted that it lacks in human rights safeguards that have become standard in comparable agreements. Jerome Cohen underscores that Hong Kong courts would have no substantive say in whether facts submitted by a mainland court hold up to scrutiny, but would simply certify the formal compliance with the criteria of the ordinance. Not many rule of law jurisdictions have extradition agreements with China. France, Italy and Spain are the exception – no common law jurisdiction has passed such an agreement. But while those do exclude their own citizens from extradition, Hong Kong permanent residents are not excluded from the bill. Mainland courts will also have the power to request freezing the assets of suspects in Hong Kong. While the government made some concessions in response to concerns expressed by the business community (excluding political offenses, raising the bar to crimes entailing at least seven years of imprisonment, and requiring a request to be made by the highest legal authority in the requesting country), they did not allay most of the concerns in society.
Opposition was exacerbated by procedural issues. The Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has argued that the bill is needed to extradite a murder suspect for trial in Taiwan. According to the Hong Kong Bar Association, Taiwan is indeed excluded from ad hoc extraditions authorized by LegCo (presumably because it is deemed to be part of China), although some lawyers have argued otherwise. At the same time, it has been reported that the Hong Kong authorities left three requests for legal assistance made by Taiwan in the murder case unanswered. The Taiwan government has repeatedly underlined that it would not request an extradition under the arrangement envisaged by the bill. Finally, the Hong Kong government tried to fast-track the legislation, reducing public consultation and bypassing the Bills Committee after opposition from pan-democratic lawmakers.
The origin of the legislation remains a subject of speculation. The Chief Executive is adamant that she proposed it on her own initiative and several voices in the Chinese bureaucracy have supported this idea, including the Chinese ambassador to the UK. Sources in the Hong Kong establishment have even suggested Carrie Lam gave insufficient notice to Beijing’s Liaison Office in the city.
However, other commentators have noted the relevance of the broader context, in which China has recently resorted to "unconventional" methods to force rendition of Hong Kong residents (the Causeway Bay booksellers, the tycoon Xiao Jianhua), Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign and the push to sign more extradition agreements around the world, as well as the chronological coincidence with the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada in response to a US extradition request. The central government may not have explicitly proposed the bill, however it seems quite likely that it was involved to a certain degree in defining its scope, if only because it implicates Taiwan, a highly sensitive issue.
The Hong Kong tabloid Singtao reported that Carrie Lam met with Politburo Standing Committee member (in charge of Hong Kong affairs) Han Zheng on June 14 in Shenzhen (although Lam did not confirm this). The New York Times has suggested that Lam’s idea sprouted in response to a speech by Xi Jinping last November underscoring Hong Kong’s obligation to legislate on national security in accordance with article 23 of the Basic Law.