Hong Kong proposes extradition law revision to deal with Taiwan fugitives

Pro-Beijing demonstrators raise the Chinese National flag and the Hong Kong flag during a protest outside Legislative building in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. Hong Kong’s legislature has taken up for consideration a bill that punishes anyone who "publicly and intentionally insults" the Chinese national anthem with up to three years in prison. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Hong Kong government has proposed legal revisions that would enable it to negotiate cooperation agreements with Taiwan and mainland China on the extradition of fugitives on a case-by-case basis.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau submitted a proposal to the Legislative Council Panel on Security on Feb. 13 to amend laws to allow the surrender of suspects in criminal cases between Hong Kong and Taiwan and mainland China.

The policy change is aimed at plugging loopholes exposed by a homicide case in February 2018 in which a former Hong Kong associate degree student, surnamed Chan, allegedly strangled his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing (潘曉穎) to death in their hotel during a trip to Taiwan.

He returned to Hong Kong soon after the incident and was subsequently arrested on March 13 in possession of Poon’s ATM card, which he said he had used to withdraw about HK$13,000 (around US$1,660).

Chan was jailed in Hong Kong on charges of theft, and remains in custody.

Taiwanese authorities have been unable to prosecute Chan because of the absence of a formal extradition arrangement between the two jurisdictions.

Hong Kong has also been unable to figure out how to send Chan back to Taiwan, leading the Security Bureau to propose Tuesday to amend the the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, laws which currently do not apply to “any other part of the People’s Republic of China.”

The proposed amendment would allow Hong Kong to surrender fugitives to any government with which the city has not entered into bilateral extradition agreements, including Macau, Taiwan and mainland China.

Under the proposal, extradition requests would be handled on a case-by-case basis, with the Hong Kong chief executive issuing a certificate to authorize the transfer of a fugitive.

In its submission, the Security Bureau said the two laws concerning judicial assistance and extradition must be amended promptly, specifically citing public concerns over a miscarriage of justice in the Taiwan murder case.

The proposal drew mixed reactions in Hong Kong. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong expressed its support, saying public concerns remain high over the Taiwan murder case and the inability to prosecute Chan without a formal extradition arrangement.

Poon’s family also expressed hopes that the law can be amended to allow the extradition of Chan to Taiwan to stand trial on murder charges and let justice be done.

James To Kun-sun (涂謹申), a Democratic Party lawmaker, voiced opposition to the proposal, however, citing worries that the Hong Kong government could abuse the amended legislation by granting Chinese government requests to extradite Hong Kong citizens to the mainland.

By Stanley Chung and Evelyn Kao