Hong Kong Government Refuses Taiwan’s Offer to Transfer Murder Suspect

October 22, 2019 Updated: October 23, 2019

The Hong Kong government on Oct. 23 refused Taiwan’s offer to escort murder suspect Chan Tong-kai to the island to face prosecution.

This is the latest in an ongoing dispute between Hong Kong and Taiwan authorities over the murder case that became the Hong Kong government’s impetus for introducing a controversial extradition bill, which has triggered ongoing mass protests since June.

Chan, a 21 year-old Hong Kong resident, is wanted in Taiwan for allegedly killing his 20-year-old girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing while they were visiting Taipei in February 2018. Poon’s body was found in a suitcase near a Taipei metro station.

Chan returned to Hong Kong before local authorities could investigate the crime. After Poon’s death, Chan withdrew cash from ATM machines using Poon’s bank card once in Taiwan and three times in Hong Kong, and also took Poon’s digital camera, smartphone, and other valuables.

Chan was arrested in Hong Kong on money laundering charges and sentenced to prison. Hong Kong authorities said they didn’t charge Chan for murder due to lack of evidence.

Chan is released on Oct. 23.

Dispute

Taiwan authorities said they had sought to work out a mutual legal agreement with Hong Kong since November 2018 to transfer Chan back to the island, but the city had refused to sign a bilateral extradition treaty.

Using Chan’s case, the Hong Kong government proposed instead an extradition bill that would allow any country, including mainland China, to seek extradition of criminal suspects. It was formally withdrawn by city leader Carrie Lam in September, after millions of Hongkongers protested on the streets.

Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule from British rule in 1997 with the express guarantee of autonomy, doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Taiwan. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime doesn’t recognize the Taiwanese government, as it considers the island part of its territory, despite it being self-ruled, with its own democratically elected government, currency, and military.

On the eve of Chan’s release on Oct. 18, the Hong Kong government announced that Chan wrote a letter to Lam saying he would like to surrender himself to Taiwanese authorities after his release.

Taiwan initially criticized the Hong Kong government for what it called “a political maneuver” in publicizing Chan’s letter, as it would demonstrate that the extradition bill was necessary, the government said in a statement.

Furthermore, it said Hong Kong’s continual refusal to negotiate a bilateral treaty and transfer Chan under such terms was an act that “diminishes” Taiwan’s sovereignty by not treating it as a legitimate state, instead treating Taiwan as a part of China.

On Oct. 22, the Taiwan government said it sent a letter to Hong Kong counterparts requesting permission to send officers to escort Chan from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Statement

The Hong Kong government released a statement in the early morning of Oct. 23, in which it rejected Taiwan’s request, saying that “the authority of Taiwan has no law enforcement power in Hong Kong.”

The statement called the offer “totally unacceptable” and suggested that the Taiwan government issue a visa to Chan and allow him to go to Taiwan himself and surrender to authorities.

It also repeated its argument that although Chan and Poon are Hongkongers, the city’s judicial system is not responsible for the murder case because the alleged homicide occurred in Taiwan.

As of press time, Taiwan has not responded to Hong Kong’s latest statement.

Previously, Taiwan’s deputy interior minister Chen Tsung-yen said at a press conference on Oct. 22 that because Chan is a murder suspect, according to the island’s laws, he is not allowed to apply for a visa online or a visa on arrival.

Chan also would not be allowed to board a Taiwanese-operated airplane.

Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the agency in charge of cross-strait affairs, also released a statement late on Oct. 22 expressing his concerns about Chan’s impending release.

“If [Chan] has impunity, he may flee, organize fake evidence, or get rid of evidence [that incriminates him]. Then how would the victim’s family feel?”

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who is running for reelection, also talked about Chan’s case while on the campaign trail on Oct. 22, in which she criticized the Hong Kong government for giving up its jurisdiction over the case.

“If Hongkongers have the same situation in another country, the Hong Kong government won’t be a responsible authority if it behaves the way it has thus far,” Tsai said.

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