The Taipei government will not sign any extradition deal with Hong Kong that has potential implications for the one-China principle, a Taiwanese official overseeing Hong Kong affairs has said.
Huang Ting-hui, who is tasked with handling affairs concerning Hong Kong, Macau, Inner Mongolia and Tibet at the Mainland Affairs Council, also stressed that any act aimed at “destroying the national sovereignty” of the self-governing island would not be deemed acceptable, according to a report by Taiwan’s official Central News Agency. The one-China policy considers Taiwan a part of China.
The official asked the Hong Kong government to consider the well-being of the people on both sides, noting that the city government’s plan to amend laws to make it easier to extradite fugitives had already sparked public concerns in Hong Kong, the report said.
The proposal comes in the wake of a murder case last year involving a Hong Kong man who returned to the city after allegedly killing his girlfriend while they were on holiday in Taiwan.
The Hong Kong government said the case exposed a loophole in the current system – the suspect has not been sent to Taiwan to face charges as the city’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance do not apply to Taiwan.
Both ordinances currently expressly exclude “any other part of the People’s Republic of China”, which Hong Kong’s authorities and laws have always viewed as including Taiwan. Hong Kong security minister John Lee Ka-chiu stated the same position when speaking to lawmakers last Friday.
When pressed on whether Taiwan needed to first accept it was part of the People’s Republic of China to reach an extradition arrangement with Hong Kong, Lee carefully dismissed the concern.
“Any possible deal with Taiwan would be based on how a certain case is handled, whether there is sufficient evidence – we are only focused on that case,” Lee said at the time. “Any other concerns [raised on the one-China precondition] did not apply to negotiation with the Taiwanese authorities.”
The Hong Kong government said it hoped to change the law to cover any jurisdiction in the world by making it possible for the government to adopt a case-by-case approach to handing over fugitives or offering legal assistance to jurisdictions the city has not already entered into agreements with.
The city’s opposition camp has expressed fears that the changes could be abused by Beijing to force Hong Kong to hand over dissidents to the mainland.
In Taiwan, lawmaker Hsu Tung-ming of the pro-independence New Power Party, said the amended law could put Taiwanese people in Hong Kong at risk as they could be taken to the mainland to face trial on the pretext of various offences.
Under mainland law, economic and political crimes are commonly extraterritorial, and alleged offenders do not have to physically be in mainland China. Critics have cited the jailing of Taiwanese rights activist Lee Ming-cheh, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for subversion, as a reason for concern over the wider implications of the proposed change.
Liu Yi-jun, from the Department of International and Cross-Strait Legal Affairs at Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice, said Taipei would not rule out cooperating with Hong Kong, but “both sides have to be on the same footing, with dignity and mutual benefits”, the agency reported.
In Hong Kong, Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said a more appropriate way to deal with the transfer of the suspect to Taiwan was to seek Beijing’s approval to allow the city to deal directly with Taiwan on the case, or start a formal discussion of mutual legal assistance with Taiwan.
“This can not only see justice served sooner but also avoid the impact on Hong Kong’s rule of law because of the legal changes.”
Additional reporting by Alvin Lum