Taiwan’s top government agency handling cross-strait affairs has forcefully rejected the claim that it was responsible for Hong Kong’s latest attempt to update its extradition law.

Pro-Beijing heavyweight Maria Tam, who was attending the “two sessions” meeting in Beijing, told reporters on Thursday that Taiwan had asked for the amendment, not China’s central government.

She added that, “as far as she was concerned,” the HKSAR Basic Law Committee also did not discuss the extradition law update. Tam is the vice-chairperson of the committee, which is an advisory body under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Maria Tam.

Tam’s comments drew a strong rebuke from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which called her words “utter nonsense, a complete fabrication, [and] purposefully misleading.”

“There has been constant scepticism from all sides since the Hong Kong government proposed the amendment. The relevant authorities should listen to the advice and reflect deeply on why they lost the public’s trust,” the council wrote.

“Spouting nonsense and deflecting responsibility will only show their ignorance, and this will not help Hongkongers achieve fairness or justice.”

Last month, the Hong Kong government proposed a case-by-case system that would allow the city to handle extradition requests from jurisdictions where there are no pre-existing agreements – most notably China and Taiwan.

Secretary for Security John Lee. Photo: Citizen News.

The move was spurred by the death of Poon Hiu-wing, a pregnant 20-year-old Hong Kong woman who was killed during a trip to Taiwan last February. Hong Kong authorities arrested the woman’s boyfriend Chan Tong-kai but were unable to charge him with murder in local courts. Chan is currently in custody on theft charges.

Secretary for Security John Lee had previously said that the amendment was an issue of Hong Kong law, and there was “no need to consult anyone outside of Hong Kong.” However, he later said his department was working with mainland authorities to finalise the proposal.

On Thursday, lawmaker Charles Mok said Lee claimed to have been in contact with Taiwan all along. Mok, along with lawmakers from the Professionals Guild, had been in a closed-door meeting with Lee to voice their concerns.

According to Mok, Lee said the Hong Kong government had been in touch with its Taiwan counterpart, but did not give any further details.

Nathan Law from pro-democracy group Demosisto doubted Lee’s account, saying that Lee might just be “adjusting his story.” Law was visiting Taiwan along with lawmakers James To, Eddie Chu and Ray Chan on Wednesday and Thursday.

Nathan Law. File photo: inmediahk.net.

“The Taiwan government representatives we met today said clearly that, over the past year, they have never been directly contacted by the Hong Kong government regarding this case,” Law wrote.

“The Security Bureau also proposed its amendments without consulting Taiwan authorities.”

A Mainland Affairs Council representative also said Taiwan had reached out to the Hong Kong government thrice about the case of Chan Tong-kai, but received no reply, according to the four-man delegation.

After returning from his trip, Law said that it was “extremely likely” that Taiwan would turn down the offer of a mutual extradition agreement with Hong Kong, and would not make use of the case-by-case extradition system proposed by Hong Kong.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.