The murder suspect whose case sits at the center of months of violent protests in Hong Kong is set to walk free today, as the city government bickers with Taiwan over how to prosecute him.
Both Hong Kong and Taiwan – divided over their views of the protesters and Beijing – accuse each other of letting politics get in the way of justice. The debate continued yesterday, even as Hong Kong authorities prepared to release the suspect, Chan Tong-kai, after completing his sentence for a related money-laundering charge.
Yesterday, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, hit back, saying Taiwan was exploiting the case for political gain.
“I really hope the Taipei authorities won’t complicate a simple issue,” Cheung said at a briefing. “At this point, we hope a breakthrough can be found – i.e., the suspect can be returned to Taiwan as soon as possible.”
Hong Kong’s inability to prosecute Chan on allegations of murdering his local girlfriend while the couple were on vacation in Taiwan prompted Chief Executive Carrie Lam to introduce extradition legislation that sparked months of historic unrest. While Lam eventually scrapped the bill, the two sides still lack an extradition pact and haven’t worked out a solution on how to handle Chan’s case.
Chan, who admitted in court proceedings to killing his girlfriend in 2018, has expressed a willingness to return to Taiwan to face charges. Hong Kong opposition lawmaker James To yesterday accused Lam’s government of delaying the process and urged the two sides to resolve the issue.
“We want the government to take proactive action to talk to Taiwan authorities,” To told a news conference. “If you step into the shoes of Taiwan’s authorities, the Hong Kong police have not cooperated with them, have not delivered any evidence to them, have not given detailed evidence through Hong Kong operations. How can the Taiwan side trust you?”
The case sits at the center of a complex dispute that has sparked four months of unrest and a broader geopolitical battle that has embroiled Beijing and Washington. On one side sits Hong Kong, whose government answers to the Chinese Communist Party. On the other is democratic Taiwan, and it’s pro-independence ruling party.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen refused to cooperate with Lam’s original extradition bill over its inclusion of mainland China and her government now wants Hong Kong to hand over evidence against Chan before accepting his surrender. The Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei, which governs the island’s relations with China, said over the weekend statement that “political forces” were behind Chan’s plan to turn himself in to Taiwan.
“Hong Kong should bring the suspect to trial directly as the suspect is in Hong Kong and the victim’s family is in Hong Kong,” Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said yesterday. “If the Hong Kong government is willing to provide judicial assistance to us, they should provide relevant evidence and documents so that we can try him.”
Hong Kong authorities said they received “no reply” from Taiwan to its suggestions to send a delegation to discuss a “co-operation arrangement.” The city’s government said in a statement that Chan’s plan “to surrender himself to Taiwan is purely out of his own free will,” and that allegations of “political maneuvering are totally groundless.” MDT/Bloomberg