Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee has said Taiwan is in control of transferring fugitive Chan Tong-kai and reiterated that police have not established a communication channel with the island nation.

In an interview published on Wednesday, the security chief told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that in order for Chan to surrender himself he must obtain “unequivocal permission” to enter Taiwan, including a visa and inbound flight date. Lee added he is hopeful that Taiwan will green-light a co-operation mechanism between the two jurisdictions which will facilitate the transfer.

John Lee
Secretary for Security John Lee. File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Lee cited a murder case in 2016, when Hong Kong suspects who fled to Taiwan were deported for overstaying their visa and subsequently handed to Hong Kong police at Taoyuan International Airport. They remained under Hong Kong police surveillance throughout their flight and were arrested upon landing at Hong Kong International Airport.

The security chief said Chan is a free person willing to turn himself in and there should be no delay. He added he hoped for coordination between Taiwan and Hong Kong police on the basis of mutual respect and pragmatism.

Chan allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend Amber Poon in 2018 while on a trip to Taipei. Chan was released on October 23 last year after serving 18 months in Hong Kong jail for money-laundering over valuables he took from Poon. He has since been living in a police-arranged safe house for nearly a year.

Chan Tong-kai Taiwan murder suspect released prison "October 23"
Chan Tong-kai is released from prison on October 23. Photo: Stand News.

Chan cannot be charged with murder owing to the absence of an extradition treaty between Hong Kong and Taiwan. His case partly prompted the government to introduce an extradition bill that would have enabled fugitive transfers to mainland China. The ill-fated proposal triggered months of citywide protests.

Reverend Peter Koon – provincial secretary-general of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – has been relaying messages from Chan. He earlier cited Covid-19 travel restrictions as the reason for the transfer delay.

The Security Bureau on Saturday denied the existence of any “single window” liaison point with Taipei, adding that Hong Kong could not offer legal assistance to Taiwan on the criminal case.

Correction 17/2/21: A previous version of this piece incorrectly stated that Chan was released on October 18.

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Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.