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US report warns of 'serious risks' from Hong Kong extraditions

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Washington (AFP)

A report by a US government commission has warned of "serious" security risks from Hong Kong's plan to allow extraditions to mainland China, which has sparked protests in the financial hub.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was set up by Congress to advise on the security implications of US trade with China, said the extradition bill could affect the estimated 85,000 US citizens and 1,300 US firms in Hong Kong.

"The proposed changes to Hong Kong's extradition laws could create serious risks for US national security and economic interests in the territory," said the report released Tuesday.

"The new arrangement would diminish Hong Kong's reputation as a safe place for US and international business operations, and could pose increased risks for US citizens and port calls in the territory," it said.

The report said that the bill was part of China's "accelerating" intrusions into the rule of law in Hong Kong -- going against the "one country, two systems" promise made by Beijing before Britain handed over the colony in 1997.

Hong Kong maintains a separate legal system and has historically balked at extraditions to the mainland due to China's opaque criminal justice system and its liberal use of the death penalty.

But earlier this year Hong Kong's government announced plans to overhaul its extradition rules, allowing the transfer of fugitives with mainland China, Macau and Taiwan on a case-by-case basis.

In response to the report, the government of the city -- known officially as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region -- said it abided by the rule of law and had long-term agreements to surrender fugitives with 20 jurisdictions, including the United States.

"The current exercise is about amending local laws to enhance the HKSAR's capability in dealing with fugitives of serious criminal offences and making the HKSAR a better partner in the international fight against crime," it said in a statement.

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