Taiwan urges 'pragmatic response' from Hong Kong to settle murder case

10/23/2020 09:49 PM
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Chan Tong-kai. CNA file photo
Chan Tong-kai. CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 23 (CNA) The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) on Friday urged the Hong Kong government to "respond pragmatically" to Taiwan's call for mutual legal assistance with regards to a murder case in Taiwan that happened more than two years ago involving two Hong Kong citizens.

The call was made one day after the exasperated mother of Amber Poon(潘曉穎), the murder victim, said she wanted to mediate between between Hong Kong and Taiwan to break the impasse regarding the surrender of the murder suspect, Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳), to Taiwanese authorities.

The mother had set Friday as the deadline for Chan's surrender in exchange for her mitigation testimony.

Chan is suspected of killing Poon in February 2018 when they were visiting Taiwan as tourists.

He returned to Hong Kong before Poon's body was found near a riverside walking path in New Taipei City and has since served a 29-month sentence in Hong Kong for stealing money from Poon's bank account using her ATM card in both places.

The Hong Kong authorities said they cannot prosecute Chan for murder because the key evidence is in Taiwan.

Chan was released on Oct. 23, 2019, but was immediately held by Hong Kong authorities in a safehouse.

Chan has repeatedly expressed his desire to fly to Taiwan to face justice, but Taiwan has refused to accept him. Its representative office in Hong Kong recently denied his application for a visa.

Taiwan and Hong Kong have been blaming each other for the deadlock. Taiwan wants the case to be handled after the two sides reach a mutual legal assistance agreement. Hong Kong refuses to reach such an agreement, citing a lack of legal basis to do so at present.

Last year, Hong Kong tried to introduce an extradition bill that would have allowed criminals there to be extradited to China, Taiwan or Macau, but it triggered massive opposition because of fears that people could be sent to the mainland without due cause.

Taiwan's government also opposed the now-withdrawn bill, saying it treated Taiwan as a part of China and instead asked for a mutual legal assistance deal similar to those Hong Kong has signed with 30-plus countries around the world.

Such a deal is usually signed between countries and has sovereign implications. Hong Kong's government does not consider Taiwan a separate country, but rather a part of the same country it belongs to, China.

In a written statement on Friday, the MAC, Taiwan's government agency responsible for cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, said a district prosecutors' office in charge of the case has received Chan's plea to turn himself in through his lawyer.

It urged the Hong Kong government to "respond pragmatically" to Taiwan's call for mutual legal assistance to settle the case.

The MAC reiterated that both governments should first clarify jurisdiction-related issues before proceeding to matters relating to Chan's entry to Taiwan.

Hong Kong's Security Bureau (SB), however, reiterated on Friday that a mutual legal assistance deal is not a prerequisite for a suspect to surrender himself to authorities, according to Hong Kong media.

The SB said the Hong Kong government cannot engage in a mutual legal assistance agreement with Taiwan as such an arrangement is only applicable to "foreign governments," according to Hong Kong's law.

Peter Douglas Koon (管浩鳴), a priest at the Hong Kong Anglican Church, who has been helping Chan in his attempt to surrender himself to Taiwan, told Hong Kong media on Friday that Chan felt upset that he was denied a Taiwan visa, but there was nothing he could do.

(By Lai Yen-hsi and Emerson Lim)

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