Hong Kong, Taiwan authorities tussle as fate of murder suspect in limbo

Hong Kong, Taiwan authorities tussle as fate of murder suspect in limbo

Hong Kong riot police fire tear gas in Yuen Long district
Riot police fire tear gas in the Yuen Long district of Hong Kong, Oct 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Ed Jones)

HONG KONG: A murder case that led to mass street protests in Hong Kong should be handled independently by Taiwan, where the suspect allegedly committed the crime, authorities in the Chinese-ruled city said.

Chan Tong-kai, a Hong Kong citizen, was accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan last year before fleeing back to the financial hub. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam held up Chan's case as an example of why an extradition Bill, which would have allowed suspects to be sent from Hong Kong to territories including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau - was needed.

Hong Kong has been reeling from five months of unrest originally triggered by the extradition Bill but which has now evolved into a movement. The government has announced it will withdraw the Bill, but the protests have not stopped.

READ: China foreign minister slams 'unacceptable' violence in Hong Kong

READ: Suspected bombs found during weekend protests in Hong Kong: Police

Police officers stand next to a burning barricade during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong Ch
Police officers stand next to a burning barricade during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong on Oct 20, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Chan has offered to voluntarily surrender himself to Taiwan on release from prison in the former British colony where he has been serving a 29-month sentence for money laundering, the chief executive's office said.

Taiwan has said Chan's offer to give himself up was not sufficient and that formal talks were needed with Hong Kong authorities.

Taiwan authorities argue that his extradition without a legal assistance framework would damage the self-ruled island's sovereignty and put Taiwan under the "one China" framework.

Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Tuesday that the government had requested legal assistance and warned Hong Kong not to "politically manipulate" the case.

Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top policy-making on China, said Taipei was waiting for a reply from Hong Kong.

"We waited from yesterday till today for a positive response from Hong Kong and it's obvious that Hong Kong is giving up its jurisdiction and that is irreversible so Taiwan will take over prosecuting" the case, Chiu told reporters.

"Chan will be released from prison tomorrow and we cannot sit back and see him at large. Today we requested Hong Kong's assistance for our personnel to go to Hong Kong to bring back Chan and relevant evidence in order to actively demonstrate our jurisdiction," Chiu added.

At a press event in Taipei on Monday, he had said that it was "very strange" that the Hong Kong government has changed its stance on the case.

"In the past, our government kept on asking (the Hong Kong government) to work on this case through mutual judicial assistance, but they (the Hong Kong government) did not even respond," said Su.

"And now they drastically changed their attitude, saying that they will send him (the suspect) to Taiwan. This is very strange."

Su also raised suspicion that the Hong Kong government's volte-face might be a malicious political manoeuvre by China.

"We will definitely not fall into China's trap," he said, adding that both Hong Kong and Taipei have jurisdiction over the case, and that Hong Kong has priority to work on the homicide case.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be a wayward province of "one China", ineligible for state-to-state relations, and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

READ: Hands tied and paralysed: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam struggles to end crisis

READ: Hong Kong firms, lacking riot insurance, pick up pieces from protest damage

Hong Kong protesters Yuen Long Oct 21, 2019
Riot police arrest protesters on the street of Yuen Long, Hong Kong on Oct. 21, 2019. (Photo: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Hong Kong has said the case can be handled without any further discussions as all relevant evidence was in Taiwan, giving it absolute jurisdiction over the case.

"The surrender does not present any obstacle in terms of legal principles and procedures ... The case can totally be handled independently," the Hong Kong government said in a statement late on Monday.

Chan was arrested by police in Hong Kong in March 2018 and local authorities were only able to find evidence against him for money laundering.

The city's justice department said it did not have "sufficient evidence" against the 20-year-old on the charge of homicide.

"Regarding Chan's alleged offence in Taiwan, the courts of Hong Kong have no jurisdiction over it," a government statement said.

"Neither do the local authorities have any ground to extend Chan's detention or pursue the offence that he was alleged to have committed in Taiwan."

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://cna.asia/telegram

Source: Reuters/AFP/zl/ec