A murder suspect whose case triggered Hong Kong’s extradition bill crisis will hand himself over to the Taiwan authorities once borders between the two jurisdictions have reopened, according to the priest supporting him.
Reverend Canon Peter Koon Ho-ming also said on Monday that he would travel ahead to Taiwan when the coronavirus situation improved to help lay the groundwork for Hongkonger Chan Tong-kai’s plan to submit to the self-ruled island’s justice system.
Chan is wanted in Taiwan for the February 2018 killing of his pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, in Taipei. Aged 20 at the time, Chan returned to Hong Kong after her death, and was jailed for related money-laundering offences.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
But he could not be sent back to face murder charges because of the lack of an extradition deal between the two jurisdictions.
Chan’s case was held up by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as a key justification for her now-withdrawn extradition bill, which last year sparked months of anti-government protests.
Koon, a top Anglican priest who had been visiting Chan in jail, revealed last October that the suspect had offered to turn himself in. But the plan was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Poon’s mother broke her two-year silence on Monday and urged Chan to go to Taiwan as soon as possible.
“God is watching what people do. You [Chan] can only do yourself and our daughter justice if you deliver on your promise as soon as possible,” she told a Hong Kong news portal.
The mother also said that as a victim and an ordinary resident, she felt “very sad” that her daughter’s death triggered the social unrest last year. “We didn‘t know that this would cause a series of social events, we felt very regretful.”
Asked to comment on her remarks, Koon said: “Tong-kai has never thought of escaping from this matter. Otherwise he would have denied this when he returned to Hong Kong, and there wouldn’t have been an extradition bill.”
The legislation, if passed, would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which the city does not have an extradition agreement, including Taiwan and mainland China.
The priest added: “As I discussed the matter with him and his family, I believe that he will eventually return to Taiwan to turn himself in. I hope that Hong Kong and Taiwan’s border will be reopened as soon as possible, so that I can go to Taiwan to arrange for him to turn himself in.”
However, Koon declined to elaborate on what he meant by the reopening of the border.
Passenger flights have continued to operate during the pandemic. Earlier this month, Taiwan authorities also relaxed quarantine measures for business travellers from Hong Kong. They now only need to undergo one week of home quarantine, down from a fortnight.
Taiwan’s police department set up a group working on an ad hoc basis to handle Chan’s case. It also created a special “single window” mechanism to process Chan’s visa application, his expected arrival, and other related arrangements.
Koon refused to explain what was stopping him and Chan – who has been staying in a Hong Kong safe house since his release from jail – from going to Taiwan.
“I also very much want to resolve this matter as soon as possible. As Poon’s mother said, ‘God is watching’. I believe that God will put an end to this matter, and I will do everything to arrange for Tong-kai to turn himself in … Let’s pray to God about this,” he said.
The Chan saga also ignited a war of words between Hong Kong and Taiwan ahead of the latter’s presidential election in January, as both sides failed to agree on the process for Chan’s surrender.
Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said in October that Chan could have autonomy on what evidence he wanted to take to Taiwan, but Taipei reportedly remained firm that the city’s government needed to transfer key documents through official channels.
Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang also said Chan would be arrested “immediately” upon his arrival.
Tensions between the two governments have also surfaced more recently. Last week, Taiwanese authorities rejected what it called “malicious accusations” from Hong Kong’s security chief John Lee Ka-chiu that Taipei had sought to “harbour criminals” in its handling of five suspected fugitives, who allegedly fled to the self-governed island to seek asylum.
In a separate case, China’s coastguard announced on August 26 it had intercepted young activists from Hong Kong in mainland waters, with the group believed to be fleeing to Taiwan. The 12 suspects, who have been linked to protest cases from last year, were remanded in Yantian district in Shenzhen.
Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesman for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said on Thursday that the key factors in the Chan case were the Hong Kong government’s sense of responsibility and whether he truly wished to surrender.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong murder suspect at centre of extradition bill crisis begs for public forgiveness upon release from jail
- Hong Kong murder suspect at centre of extradition bill row ‘still under police protection’