A young Hong Kong man who admitted killing his pregnant girlfriend during a Taiwan holiday is willing to return to the island to face justice but can’t get a visa, according to a priest who has been helping him.

Friday marks the first anniversary of the release from prison in Hong Kong on related charges of Chan Tong-kai. He feels helpless about not being able to depart, according to Rev Peter Koon.

amber poon chan tong kai
Amber Poon’s mother. ,

Chan served 18 months in a Hong Kong jail for money laundering charges for taking valuables from his girlfriend, Amber Poon.

Poon’s mother released an audio recording on Thursday, saying she would not offer mitigation testimony for Chan if he fails to surrender himself by Friday midnight.

“It has been almost a year since Chan Tong-kai was released from jail. I am upset that justice has not yet been secured for my daughter,” she said, adding it was difficult to estimate the possibility of Chan actually heading to Taiwan.

Self-governing Taiwan and Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, blame each other for the impasse in the increasingly politicised case, which indirectly sparked the year-long protests that engulfed Hong Kong last year.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province and rejects any diplomatic or other attempts to assert its separate international identity.

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

Poon’s mother told Apple Daily on Thursday that she was wiling to act as middleman in organising a trip by Chan and urged both Hong Kong and Taiwan police to liaise with her.

Ming Pao cited Poon as saying that Taipei had been in touch with her and expressed openness about discussing a transfer arrangement, and she now awaited an approach from Hong Kong police.

Year of protest

Chan – then aged 19 – admitted killing Poon in 2018 when the pair were on holiday in Taipei. Last year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said her introduction of a highly controversial extradition bill was intended to plug a loophole in the law and bring justice to Poon.

The bill, which would also have allowed extradition to mainland China, eventually sparked a series of city-wide protests and a year-long pro-democracy movement.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau said Friday the first step to resolving the issue would be for Taiwan to permit Chan’s entry, before the two police departments held further discussions on arrangements. The bureau spokesperson said in a statement that a suspect’s surrender and legal assistance were two separate issues.

“Hong Kong’s legal assistance ordinances do not apply to Taiwan and the government cannot possibly violate the law…It is unreasonable and impractical that Taiwan premised the surrender on legal assistance,” the statement said.

Photo: Office of the President of Taiwan, via Flickr.

A senior Taiwanese official, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng, urged Hong Kong to respond to the island’s three requests for mutual legal assistance, adding that both jurisdictions should reach agreement before Chan enters Taiwan.

Chiu, quoted by the United Daily News, said the Hong Kong government’s emotive language reflected its passive attitude to the case and eagerness to shift responsibility. “You cannot wake someone who pretends to be asleep,” he said, adding the situation was unbearable for the victim’s family.

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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.