Taiwan-Hong Kong spat raises doubts about murder suspect’s surrender

The man at the center of a Taiwan murder case that sparked months of violent protests in Hong Kong wants to turn himself in. But first Hong Kong and Taiwan must stop feuding over how that happens.

Officials in Taipei have accused Hong Kong of playing politics by trying to get rid of a man accused of murdering his girlfriend while on a vacation in Taiwan – a case that led Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to introduce deeply unpopular extradition legislation. Taiwan said the two sides need to discuss how they’ll cooperate on the prosecution before they accept him.

At the same time, Lam’s Beijing-backed government said that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party favors independence from China, hasn’t responded to suggestions on how they can cooperate. The city said their police investigation did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute a murder charge and that the suspect’s decision to surrender to Taiwan should solve the thorny legal issue of his extradition.

A Hong Kong court should issue a formal statement saying it didn’t have sufficient evidence, Tsai Ching-hsiang, Taiwan’s Minister of Justice, said at a press briefing in Taipei on yesterday evening. He added that Taiwan will arrest Chan if he returns.

The dueling statements follow a letter from Chan Tong-kai, in which he outlined his willingness to return to the island after his release from a Hong Kong jail on a related money-laundering charge. 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.

“Carrie Lam is cooperating with China,” Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters yesterday. “She didn’t investigate the jailed Hong Kong person who killed another Hong Kong person. She ignored our requests for judicial assistance previously. Now she changes her attitude suddenly and said will send the suspect to Taiwan. This is very strange.”

‘Political Forces’

The Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei, which governs the island’s relations with China, said in a weekend statement that “political forces” were behind the Hong Kong suspect’s plan to hand himself in to Taiwan. The body reiterated that only judicial cooperation can solve the problem, which arose because Hong Kong has no formal extradition treaty with Taiwan.

“As long as Hong Kong requests, we will promptly provide relevant evidence on an equal, dignified and mutually beneficial basis,” the Mainland Affairs Council said. “We also hope the Hong Kong government will face our request in a prompt and pragmatic manner.”

Hong Kong authorities said it received “no reply” from Taiwan to its suggestions to send a delegation to Taiwan to discuss a “co-operation arrangement.” The 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.”

“We have stated clearly that there is no law that allows us to extradite suspect Chan to Taiwan, or to pursue any criminal juridical assistance with Taiwan,” the Hong Kong government said. “As Chan has stated his willingness to surrender himself voluntarily to Taiwan, the authority of Taiwan should handle the case in accordance with its protocol in handling similar cases of self-surrender.” Adela Lin &  Iain Marlow, Bloomberg

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