Taipei, June 15 (CNA) Taiwan's Presidential Office has blasted the Hong Kong government for using a murder case involving Taiwan as an excuse to legislate a bill that raises human rights concerns, calling such a tactic "irresponsible and immoral."
"The Hong Kong government's use of a (criminal) case involving Taiwan as a pretext to legislate a bill that may violate human rights is irresponsible and lacks a sense of morality," the office said in a statement Saturday evening.
The office was referring to remarks by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) on Saturday that used Taiwan as an excuse to suspend the bill's legislative process after citing Taiwan as the reason to push for it.
Hong Kong proposed the bill after a case implicating Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳) in a murder in Taiwan exposed a legal loophole in Hong Kong's judicial system, Lam said, reiterating the use of Chen's case to justify the bill by Hong Kong authorities.
The previous urgency for the bill's passage no longer existed, however, after Taiwan's government repeatedly said it would not accept Chen's extradition to Taiwan if the transfer was predicated on the passage of a bill that could raise human rights concerns, Lam said.
A Hong Kong citizen, Chen fled back to Hong Kong after he allegedly murdered his girlfriend while they were on a trip to Taiwan in February 2018.
As Hong Kong does not have an extradition agreement with Taiwan, it cannot send the suspect to be prosecuted and stand trial in Taiwan, which has jurisdiction over the case.
The extradition bill would allow Hong Kong authorities to extradite crime suspects to China, Taiwan and Macau, raising fears it could threaten the human rights of Hong Kong nationals by subjecting them to China's arbitrary judicial system.
The bill triggered widespread protests that may have ultimately forced Lam's hand to pull back from pushing through the legislation in Hong Kong's Legislative Council.
Urging the Hong Kong government to safeguard the region's freedom and democracy, the Presidential Office said Lam's administration should take Hong Kongers' expectations to choose their preferred way of life and government system seriously and respond to them.
"We are paying close attention (to the case) and support Hong Kongers' aspiration to pursue freedom, democracy and human rights," the office said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) took to Twitter on Saturday to vent his discontent with Hong Kong's handling of the controversial bill.
"I'm deeply upset by the assault on freedom & #HumanRights in #HongKong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam must listen to the people & take full responsibility," Wu said. "Blaming #Taiwan is immoral, shameful & unacceptable. Embrace democracy & stand on the right side of history!"
Despite the bill's temporary suspension, the continued lack of a mutual judicial assistance mechanism between Taiwan and Hong Kong means Taiwan still has no good option to go after Hong Kongers who commit a crime within its borders but then flee before they are caught.
Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正), deputy chief of the Mainland Affairs Council, the top government agency in charge of cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, told CNA that the government hopes Chen's case can be dealt with as an individual case, instead of being tied to a bill that may pose a threat to human rights.
"Both sides should explore the establishment of a judicial mutual assistance mechanism based on the principles of equality, dignity and reciprocity, whether it is for individual cases or long-term cooperation," Chiu said.
But he acknowledged that Taiwan has already made three requests to its Hong Kong counterpart for mutual judicial assistance on Chen's case, but to no avail.
Instead, Lam's administration put forward a bill that has spawned widespread controversy, Chiu said. "We only asked for a glass of milk, but (the Hong Kong government) used it as an excuse to start a farm and even keep a crocodile inside it," he said.
Asked about the possibility of Taiwan and Hong Kong inking a judicial mutual assistance agreement, Chiu hinted that the chances of signing such a document were low, given the special nature of ties between Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.