Hong Kong’s extradition law explained

Vast protests have hit Hong Kong in recent days as the government seeks to push through controversial changes to an extradition law critics say could lead to political activists being deported to China to face unfair trial and detention.

The proposed changes will allow countries with whom Hong Kong currently has no extradition treaty to make extradition requests on a case-by-case basis. Those countries include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the law is needed for cases such as that of a Hong Kong man currently wanted for the murder of his girlfriend in Taiwan.

Only crimes that carry a maximum sentence of at least seven years will be considered for extradition, while Lam has sought to assuage fears by promising Hong Kong courts will be able to review extradition requests before making a final decision.

Nevertheless, critics fear China will use the law to pressure Hong Kong into deporting political activists and Beijing's critics.

Once in China, they would be subject to a legal system which has been criticised by human rights activists for its use of torture, arbitrary detentions and unfair trials.

A former UK territory, Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997 but has remained largely self-governing under a policy known as “one country, two systems”.

But in recent years China has been accused of increasingly seeking to infringe civil liberties in Hong Kong, such as the 2015 abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers who were then detained in mainland China.

China has said it “firmly supports” the Hong Kong government’s attempts to change the extradition law.