Hong Kong’s acting leader has called on Taiwan not to “complicate a simple issue” and accept the surrender of a murder suspect, whose case triggered the city’s worst civil unrest in decades.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice previously said it may refuse entry to murder suspect Chan Tong-kai even if he wanted to turn himself in. It called on Hong Kong authorities to resolve the case in local courts, adding that Taiwan was willing to provide legal assistance.

Matthew Cheung
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

However, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said he preferred Taiwan to take charge of the case, and appealed to the island’s authorities to tackle the matter with “common sense and compassion.”

“We are talking about somebody who is willing to surrender himself and get back to Taiwan to face trial, and also to ensure justice is done,” he said on Tuesday before the Executive Council meeting.

“I think it is common sense that we should try to provide every facilitation.”

Chan’s case has escalated into an extended political spat, with Taiwan accusing Hong Kong of “demeaning its sovereignty” because it refused to pass evidence onto the island’s prosecutors. Hong Kong’s lack of official cooperation was a sign that the city does not treat Taiwan as a separate jurisdiction from China, Taiwan authorities said.

Chan Tong-kai and Poon Hiu-wing
Chan Tong-kai (left) and his deceased girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing (right). Photo: Facebook.

Cheung responded saying that Taiwan should not “try to exploit politics” at the expense of justice. Cheung did not outline a backup plan in the event Taiwan denies Chan’s entry, but said he hoped a resolution could be found.

Twenty-year-old Chan Tong-kai admitted to killing his girlfriend in Taiwan last February, before fleeing back to Hong Kong where he is a permanent resident. Chan could not be charged with murder in Hong Kong courts, and could not be extradited to Taiwan as there was no legal agreement between the two jurisdictions.

Chan was jailed in April for money laundering in relation to cash and valuables he took from his deceased girlfriend. He is due to be released on Wednesday. In a letter to the chief executive written from his cell, Chan said he was willing to go to Taiwan and face justice.

James To
James To. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To urged the Hong Kong government to proactively reach out to Taiwan to negotiate, instead of “trying to resolve the issue via a microphone.”

Hong Kong should share its evidence with Taiwanese authorities, and needed to fully explain why it was not an option for Chan to face trial in local courts, To said.

In February, Chief Executive Carrie Lam used the high-profile murder case involving Chan to propose an amendment to Hong Kong’s extradition law, which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to jurisdictions where Hong Kong had no prior agreement.

October 20 mask ban china extradition protest
File photo: Studio Incendo.

The bill would have resolved the legal impasse in Chan’s case, but it would also have enabled fugitive transfers from Hong Kong to other jurisdictions with lacklustre human rights records, including mainland China.

The bill – which Lam said would be withdrawn soon – has sparked an unprecedented string of street protests lasting over four months. The demonstrations have since grown into a citywide movement calling for greater accountability for handling of the crisis and democratic reform.

Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.

fundraising fundraise banner
Holmes Chan

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.