The mother of a murder victim in a politically deadlocked case between Hong Kong and Taiwan has pleaded with both governments to allow the swift transfer of the confessed killer, now that Taipei has offered a visa concession.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post after her 19-year-old daughter Poon Hiu-wing’s death triggered months of anti-government protests last year in Hong Kong, the mother revealed on Friday her profound sense of despair and helplessness at the resulting chaos in her home city as she grieved a personal tragedy.
Pregnant Poon’s 2018 killing in Taipei prompted the Hong Kong government last year to propose a controversial extradition bill to have murder suspect Chan Tong-kai sent back to Taiwan to face trial, following the boyfriend’s return to the city.
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But rather than propose a one-off arrangement to facilitate the handover, city officials tabled a version also allowing extradition to mainland China, leading to months of unrest even after the proposed legislation was eventually withdrawn.
In an emotional interview, the mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “From the very beginning, we have always asked the government only to deal with my daughter’s case.”
She said she felt helpless that, despite promises from the city government and other politicians to bring about justice, there was nothing to show after all this time. But she acknowledged that progress could only be made with the help of the city administration.
“Hopefully, the [Hong Kong] government is really serious about helping us and not like a year ago when nothing was done to help us in our … case,” she said.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council revealed on Friday that Chan could apply for a visa at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong.
The move was seen as a potential breakthrough after Taipei previously limited communications to a special “single-window” mechanism and the Taiwan premier had dismissed the prospect of Chan freely arriving on the island to give himself up without formal negotiations.
The council on Friday said the window was in fact a “surrender hotline”. The Hong Kong authorities had avoided official contact with Taipei, citing Chan’s status as a free man and the lack of an extradition bill to enable a formal handover.
In a rare plea directly to Taiwan, Poon’s mother said: “I hope the relevant department in Taiwan can receive Chan Tong-kai smoothly when he surrenders, and liaise with the Hong Kong authorities as best as possible, so that my daughter’s case can be resolved.”
But she said what mattered most, above politics, would be Chan’s will. “If he doesn’t want to go, it won’t help forcing him,” she said, urging him to listen to his conscience.
Chan, aged 20 at the time of Poon’s death and now in a police-operated safe house, was released from the Pik Uk Correctional Institution last October after serving 19 months in prison on money-laundering charges related to the killing.
But Hong Kong is unable to prosecute him for a murder committed in Taiwan, while Chan has blamed the pandemic and politics for not offering a precise timetable for handing himself over to the authorities there as promised.
His release last October marked the start of another campaign for Poon’s mother to lobby for Chan’s surrender to Taiwan, which includes speaking to the press to keep the saga in the public glare.
Last week, Reverend Peter Koon Ho-ming, who has been supporting Chan, said discussions between the suspect and the Taiwanese authorities about his surrender were under way.
But once again the prospect of Chan’s surrender was thrown into doubt by reignited tensions between the Hong Kong and Taiwanese governments, which closely resembled last year’s rows.
“I hope things will take a turn for the better because now it looks like both sides, Hong Kong and Taiwan, are stuck,” she said, expressing hope that the visa development was significant.
Despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s repeated offers of condolences in public, she said the city leader had never reached out to her privately. Asked if she felt exploited, she said: “Only the government will know.”
The mother said the politicians who pledged to help had never brought her any news. The self-described “tiny citizen” steered clear of politics by not naming the politicians, but added: “Everyone already knows who they are.”
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong murder suspect Chan Tong-kai’s voluntary surrender in fresh doubt as Taiwan demands formal handover
- Taiwanese lawyers for Hong Kong murder suspect at centre of extradition bill crisis to discuss case with island’s authorities