Taiwan won’t seek suspect’s return if HK passes extradition law, shredding government’s rationale

Activists protest a controversial plan by Hong Kong’s government to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland on last month. Photo via AFP.
Activists protest a controversial plan by Hong Kong’s government to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland on last month. Photo via AFP.

Taiwan says it has no intention of asking Hong Kong to return a murder suspect from the financial hub if the government passes controversial extradition legislation that puts Taiwanese citizens at risk of China’s reach, effectively negating the government’s main rationale behind its determined push to pass the law.

Hong Kong’s government is pushing a bill through the city’s legislature which would allow case-by-case extraditions to any jurisdictions it doesn’t have an already agreed treaty with, including mainland China.

The plan has sparked huge protests and mounting alarm within the city’s business and legal communities — as well as foreign governments — who fear it will hammer the semi-autonomous financial hub’s international appeal and tangle people up in China’s opaque court system.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government has argued the bill must be passed quickly to stop 20-year-old resident Chan Tong-kai from evading justice for the murder of his girlfriend during a Valentine’s holiday in Taipei last year.

Chan admitted to Hong Kong police that he killed his pregnant girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing, also from Hong Kong, and then flew home. Police were unable to charge him for murder or extradite him to Taiwan because no agreement is in place.

Instead, prosecutors pursued a successful case over Chan’s possession and use of his dead girlfriend’s bank cards. But he is due for release later this year.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has argued the extradition bill must be passed before Chan is freed to plug existing loopholes.

Taiwan has undermined the need for speed by confirming it will not ask for Chan’s return, because it is concerned that Hong Kong’s extradition law puts its people at risk of being snatched by China.

“Without the removal of threats to the personal safety of [Taiwan] nationals going to or living in Hong Kong caused by being extradited to mainland China, we will not agree to the case-by-case transfer proposed by the Hong Kong authorities,” Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, told reporters on Thursday.

Chiu described the Taipei murder case as an “excuse,” and questioned whether the Hong Kong government’s legislation was “politically motivated”.

He added Taiwanese people feared ending up like Lee Ming-che, a democracy activist who disappeared on a trip to the Chinese mainland and was later jailed for “subverting state power”.

He also said three requests to Hong Kong from Taiwanese police for help in pursuing the Chan murder case were met with silence.

This isn’t the first time Taiwan has expressed concerns over the law, though pro-Beijing Hong Kong officials declined to engage with those concerns at the time.

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