The murder suspect who triggered last year’s extradition bill crisis was a free man who had paid his debt to Hong Kong society and there was little the government could do to change that, Hong Kong’s leader admitted on Tuesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also declined to say whether authorities could do anything to get Chan Tong-kai to Taiwan so he could surrender, something he previously said he planned to do.
Chan, who is under police protection in a Hong Kong safe house, is wanted on the self-ruled island in connection with the 2018 killing of his 19-year-old pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, in Taipei.
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His case returned to the spotlight earlier this month when the victim’s mother broke her silence to urge her daughter’s suspected killer to turn himself in.
Lam said last week she believed Chan remained committed to facing justice in Taiwan when the political climate and the coronavirus crisis allowed it.
In response, Poon’s mother, who spoke out on condition of anonymity, again pleaded with him to surrender, especially since both places have set up a special window to process his visa application.
She told the Post Lam should remember the pledge she made when announcing the extradition bill.
“Two years ago, you told us that your original intent was to help my daughter by introducing the extradition bill,” she said. “Where has the original intent gone?”
She questioning why Lam had not taken the initiative to meet Chan and instead relied on communicating through Reverend Canon Peter Koon Ho-ming, who had been assisting him.
“I hereby urge Chan Tong-kai again to stand up courageously and hand himself to Taiwan immediately,” she said.
But Lam suggested there was little more her government could do, after Chan was released from jail having served 19 months for money laundering.
“As I have said before, Chan Tong-kai has served his sentence in Hong Kong and fulfilled his legal responsibility. Essentially, he is a free man,” she said.
Chan has been living in a police safe house since he was released from prison on October 12 last year.
Asked why police had continued to let Chan stay in the safe house, Lam said she would not comment on individual cases.
“I know and I totally understand [the mother’s] feelings. But in Hong Kong, we must handle every situation in accordance with the law,” she said.
On Chan’s police protection, head of the force Chris Tang Ping-keung said on Tuesday that the arrangement was made according to “risk assessment and needs”. He added that he could not comment further on “police operational matters”.
In response to the death of Poon Hiu-wing, the Hong Kong government proposed a law last year that would allow fugitives in Hong Kong to be transferred to other jurisdictions with which the city had yet to form an extradition agreement, including mainland China.
The bill sparked months of widespread anti-government protests, which only subsided at the start of the year because of the coronavirus.
Since then, the imposition of the national security law by Beijing, which criminalise acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with external forces, has limited further unrest.
Additional reporting by Chris Lau