Hong Kong knows the quality of P.R.C. justice better than any other jurisdiction does. Until now, its refusal to send alleged suspects to the P.R.C.—its own central government—has provided a key argument against extradition to China not only in Australia but also in the United States, Canada, the U.K., and New Zealand, other popular refuges for those fleeing Beijing’s long arm. The current Hong Kong fiasco will further set back P.R.C. negotiating efforts and make even those democratic civil law countries in Western Europe that have gradually been yielding to P.R.C. extradition pressures less likely to ratify future agreements and naively implement them.
China’s extradition prospects will improve only after its Communist Party and government radically reform the country’s criminal process in practice as well as theory. To say this monumental task is unlikely to be achieved under the Xi Jinping regime is an understatement.
To those foreign scholars and NGO experts who have sought to enlighten people in China and abroad about the nature of the P.R.C. justice system and who are still attempting to cooperate with repressed Chinese law reformers, law professors, and human rights lawyers, the Hong Kong fiasco is a welcome stimulus. Sadly, however, although Xi Jinping and his Party elite hope to enhance P.R.C. “soft power,” they fail to acknowledge how important the administration of justice is to the world’s evaluations of a nation’s soft power.