Taipei, Oct. 23 (CNA) In a case that has become a political football, Taiwan's government on Wednesday said Hong Kong would be responsible if a suspect wanted for murder charges in Taiwan escaped after he was released from prison earlier in the day.
Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳), who is listed as a wanted person in Taiwan for allegedly murdering his girlfriend there in February 2018, was released from a Hong Kong prison after serving time for stealing his girlfriend's money after she was killed and is now a free man.
After political maneuvering by both sides, Hong Kong as expected rejected a request by Taiwan to have its police and prosecutors pick up Chan and bring him back to Taiwan to be questioned and tried.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top agency in charge of China policy, responded Wednesday by accusing the Hong Kong side of voluntarily giving up its jurisdiction over the murder case and refusing to cooperate with Taiwan in jointly solving the crime.
"The decision to deny Taiwan's request to send law enforcement officers to escort Chan back to the country puts those on the same plane with Chan in danger and deliberately allows the murder suspect to walk free without considering the sentiment of [the victim's] family," it said in a statement.
Hong Kong should take full responsibility for any possible consequences of its decision to refuse Taiwan's request to escort Chan, it stressed.
The case has been complicated by the lack of an extradition agreement between Taiwan and Hong Kong.
After Chan allegedly murdered his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing (潘曉穎) while the two were traveling in Taiwan in February 2018, he fled the country before Taiwanese police identified him as the main suspect in March.
Taiwanese authorities sought his return to face trial in Taiwan and asked Hong Kong to cooperate in the investigation, but without an extradition treaty, Chan stayed put in Hong Kong.
He was sentenced to a prison term after being found guilty of stealing Poon's money with her ATM card after allegedly killing her, but that only kept him behind bars until Oct. 23.
Hong Kong has said it could not prosecute Chan on murder charges because the key evidence was in Taiwan.
On Oct. 18, not long before he was to be released, Chan expressed his willingness to turn himself in to Taiwanese authorities, but Taiwan's government rejected the idea on political grounds and asked Hong Kong to prosecute the case.
After being accused of giving up its jurisdiction over the case, however, Taiwan's government reversed course.
The MAC on Tuesday evening said it would allow Chan in to Taiwan if Hong Kong granted Taiwan's request to send police officers and prosecutors there to bring Chan back, a proposal it had to know had little chance of success.
Hong Kong rejected the request, calling it "unacceptable" and accusing the Taiwan side of failing to show respect for Hong Kong's jurisdiction.
In a statement issued early Wednesday, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Government (HKSAG) said Taiwan authorities have no law enforcement power in Hong Kong.
"Chan is Taiwan's wanted person and his surrender decision is voluntary. As he will be a free man after released from jail, the HKSAG has no authority to impose any restrictive measures on him. He could go to Taiwan accompanied by persons of his choice.
"Now that Chan voluntarily surrenders himself, why should one still be concerned that he will abscond and destroy evidence?" the statement said.
The Hong Kong side argued that Taiwan is where the case took place, and Taiwan has all the key evidence related to the case.
"Without doubt, Taiwan has jurisdiction over this offense. Now that Chan is willing to surrender, Taiwan should receive him, and initiate interrogation, evidence gathering and prosecution on him," it said.
It also said that if Taiwan is indeed serious about investigating the case, it should first cancel the landing restriction of Chan.
Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday reiterated her contention that Taiwan's government has not given up jurisdiction in the murder case involving two Hong Kong citizens.
"Since the Hong Kong side is apparently giving up its jurisdiction over the matter, the Republic of China (Taiwan) government will handle the case from now," she said.
Taiwan's government argued initially against accepting Chan into the country because of what it saw as a Chinese trap.
It said Chan's decision to turn himself in was influenced by Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon (管浩鳴) of the Hong Kong Anglican Church, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a political legislative advisory body to China's government.
The government believes the surrender is politically motivated to try to get Taiwan to endorse the idea of extradition, after an extradition bill in Hong Kong that would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China, Taiwan or Macau triggered massive protests.