Man Fights Extradition To Hong Kong; Says Would Be Tried By Chinese
BOSTON (AP) _ A former tobacco executive accused of accepting $3 million in bribes so that cigarettes could be smuggled into China battled Monday to avoid extradition to Hong Kong, arguing that a trial there would almost certainly lead to a death sentence.
In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States, Jerry Lui contends that he would be tried not by the British colonial government but by the People’s Republic of China.
``The worst case scenario, which we think is very likely, is if he were sent back he’d get tortured and then killed,″ Andrew Good, one of his attorneys, said before a federal court hearing Monday.
Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule at midnight on July 1. The U.S. has no extradition treaty with China.
Lui, also known as Lui Kin-hong, denies that he accepted bribes as export director with the British-American Tobacco Co. in Hong Kong. He says he took legal payments between 1988 and 1993 to sell Japanese cigarettes in China.
Regardless of guilt or innocence, Lui’s attorneys say he would almost certainly face capital punishment, since his case would take 14 months to reach trial, long after Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule.
But Lui got little help from the U.S. government Monday. Mike Surgalla of the Department of Justice’s International Affairs Division said the British government would be the one to try and punish him.
Moreover, he told U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro, ``There is nothing in the text of the treaty that prohibits extraditing prior to the reversion of Hong Kong.″
Harvey Silverglate, another Lui attorney, countered that the case is a classic bait and switch: ``We have a treaty with the British and we’re going to send the guy to be tried by the Chinese.″
The judge, who said he would issue a ruling by the end of the year, said there is no legal precedent for sending someone to a country where they may be tried by a third government.
China has promised that Hong Kong will have an independent judiciary after the territory is turned over to Chinese rule. That means criminals will be tried in Hong Kong courts and detained in Hong Kong prisons _ not punished by China.
Wenxiang Lu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., called Lui’s argument ``baseless″ because Hong Kong will retain an independent judiciary.
But Andrew Au, former chairman of the Alliance of Hong Kong Chinese in the United States, said China has left ``a trail of broken promises″ and the judiciary pledge would likely follow the same road.
``We want to prove the case to the court that it’s not good to trust the Chinese government,″ Au said. ``This is a pure human rights statement.″