Neither officials or lawmakers attended a press conference on Wednesday held by the mother of a murder victim whose case sparked the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests.

Amber Poon’s mother spoke to the press outside the Central Government Offices on Wednesday without any of the people she had invited, including Secretary for Security Chris Tang, DAB lawmakers Starry Lee and Holden Chow, and police chief Raymond Siu.

Amber Poon’s Mother meeting the press outside the Central Government Offices on October 20, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The provincial secretary-general of the Hong Kong Anglican Church Reverend Peter Koon, the murderer Chan Tong-kai and his parents were also invited to the meeting. Koon, Lee, Chow, and Chan said prior to Wednesday that they would not attend the press conference.

Chan admitted to killing his girlfriend Amber Poon in 2018 while they were on holiday in Taiwan, and returned to Hong Kong before he could be arrested there. Chief Executive Carrie Lam cited the case as a reason to push through an extradition bill which would have allowed extradition to mainland China among other destinations.

Poon’s mother accused the lawmakers of lying to her, and “vanishing” afterwards. She also said that the pair told her “not to speak up” amid the controversy surrounding the extradition bill. Lee and Chow held a press conference with Poon’s mother in February 2019, after the Security Bureau submitted a proposal to the Legislative Council to amend the extradition bill.

Protest erupted in June that year over the since-axed bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

(From left) DAB Chairperson Starry Lee, Amber Poon Hiu-ying’s mother, DAB Vice-chairperson Holden Chow meeting the press on February 12, 2019 supporting the amendment to the extradition bill. Photo: DAB, via video screenshot.

“These two people told me a day before the press conference in 2019 that there was a drafted bill that can help my daughter,” said Poon’s mother.

“At that time, I thought it was very hopeful, but there were too many voices objecting to the amendment, I told Holden Chow since the beginning that I was worried that Chan’s case could not be dealt with, but the government’s attitude was very strong at the time, and those two people told me not to speak up, and let them help my daughter to pursue justice.”

HKFP has reached out to Lee and Chow for comment.

‘Fugitives’ paradise’

Poon’s mother also criticised the security chief and police chief, and questioned why the authorities had let Chan live in a safehouse after he completed his jail sentence in Hong Kong for money laundering.

“Their salaries are paid by Hong Kong people, they should fulfil their responsibility, either put Chan Tong-kai on trial in Hong Kong, or put him on a plane for him to surrender in Taiwan,” Poon’s mother said of Tang and Siu.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang speaking to the press in the Legislative Council on October 20, 2021. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

“I want to ask Police Commissioner Raymond Siu: Chan Tong-kai lived in a safe house for almost two years, what mechanism was the police operating in accordance with, to protect a murderer?”

She slammed the Hong Kong government for allowing Chan to “move around” and not value Hong Kong people’s lives, “Hong Kong has successfully become a fugitives’ paradise.”

Tang spoke to the press in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, and said that he “sympathises” with Poon’s mother, as he accused Taiwan of “political manipulation.”

“…I think the whole issue is Taiwan, China do not allow Mr Chan to go to Taiwan to face his responsibility, here I would like to reiterate, no matter what Taiwan, China do, they won’t change the fact that Taiwan is part of China,” said Tang.

‘Stop playing the fool’

Poon’s mother also questioned whether Koon was attempting to gain exposure when he was running as a candidate for the Bishop race for the Diocese of Hong Kong Island.

Amber Poon’s Mother meeting the press outside the Central Government Offices on October 20, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“Stop playing the fool and keep on saying that ‘it is Taiwan that did not approve a visa for Chan to surrender’ – you should reflect on whether you have the qualifications to be a pastor leading followers.”

Stand News reported that Koon said he understood how Poon’s mother was feeling, and that he believed the best way to help her was also for Chan to surrender himself to Taiwan. The reverend said that he “can face [his] conscience” over the incident, and that he “had no other way.”

Chan, in the past, has expressed a desire to return voluntarily to Taiwan following his release in October 2019 from an 18-month sentence in Hong Kong for money-laundering charges related to Poon’s murder.

But he has been unable to secure a visa as the case became tangled in diplomatic disputes between Taiwan and Beijing, which does not recognise the island’s sovereignty. Taiwan and Hong Kong authorities have each blamed the other for the impasse in arranging for Chan to face trial in Taipei for the murder.

Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945 after Japan — which occupied the island for 50 years — was defeated in the Second World War. The People’s Republic of China claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces and does not recognise it as an independent country.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.