Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan said the government would do its best to ink separate mutual legal assistance (MLA) agreements with its mainland and Hong Kong counterparts next year.
Chan made the remarks after attending a seminar at Hotel Royal on the planned legal co-operation deals.
Chan attended the one-day seminar as a guest. The event was jointly organised by the Guangdong Law Society, University of Macau’s (UM) Faculty of Law, and City University of Hong Kong’s School of Law.
The government announced earlier this year that it expected to ink a mutual legal assistance agreement with Hong Kong in 2015.
Asked by reporters about the timing, Chan admitted the government would not be able to sign the pacts this year.
She said that the local government and its Hong Kong counterpart had already reached an agreement on the principles of the agreement but details were still being discussed by both sides.
Asked by reporters as to why the government had so far not revealed any details of the mutual legal assistance pact with Hong Kong, Chan said the details were still being discussed and so far no consensus had been reached.
According to the 2016 policy guidelines of Chan’s portfolio about regional mutual legal assistance, the local government will work on an agreement with Hong Kong on the mutual transfer of fugitives and mutual assistance in criminal matters. Meanwhile, the local government will also work on a pact with the mainland on the mutual transfer of fugitives.
“We will do our best to have the agreement signed with Hong Kong [on legal assistance] next year,” Chan said, adding she expected the mutual legal assistance pact with the mainland to be signed next year.
Chan also said a draft bill on regional mutual legal assistance was expected to be finished this month and would then be submitted to the Legislative Assembly, adding that she expected the law to be ready next year.
The bill must be passed by the legislature to become law.
She also said the law on regional mutual legal assistance would be the framework for the implementation of the legal assistance agreements to be signed with Hong Kong and the mainland.