Hong Kong, Taiwan tussle as fate of murder suspect in limbo

Murder charge against Hong Kong citizen, Chan Tong-kai, prompted extradition bill plan, which sparked massive protests.

    Hong Kong has been reeling from five months of unrest that were triggered by the extradition bill [Chan Long Hei/EPA]
    Hong Kong has been reeling from five months of unrest that were triggered by the extradition bill [Chan Long Hei/EPA]

    A murder case that led to mass street protests in Hong Kong should be handled independently by Taiwan, where the suspect allegedly committed the crime, authorities in the Chinese-ruled city said.

    Chan Tong-kai, a Hong Kong citizen, was accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan last year before fleeing back to the financial hub.

    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam held up Chan's case as an example of why an extradition bill allowing suspects to be sent from Hong Kong to the mainland, Taiwan and Macau was needed.

    The bill was the catalyst for the unrest that has rocked the territory since June and has now evolved into a pro-democracy movement.

    The government has announced it will withdraw the bill, but the protests have continued.

    Chan has offered to voluntarily surrender himself to Taiwan on release from prison in the former British colony, where he has been serving a 29-month sentence for money laundering, the chief executive's office said.

    Taiwan has said Chan's offer to give himself up was not sufficient and formal talks were needed with Hong Kong authorities.

    Legal framework

    Taiwan authorities argue that his extradition without a legal assistance framework would damage the self-ruled island's sovereignty, and put Taiwan under the "one China" framework.

    Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Tuesday the government had requested legal assistance and warned Hong Kong not to "politically manipulate" the case.

    Beijing considers Taiwan to be a wayward province of China, ineligible for state-to-state relations, and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

    Hong Kong has said the case can be handled without any further discussions as all relevant evidence was in Taiwan, giving it absolute jurisdiction over the case.

    "The surrender does not present any obstacle in terms of legal principles and procedures. The case can totally be handled independently," the Hong Kong government said in a statement late on Monday.

    Chan was arrested by police in Hong Kong in March 2018 and local authorities were only able to find evidence against him for money laundering.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency