Taiwan has not given up jurisdiction in murder case: Tsai

President Tsai Ing-wen is seen in this file photo taken on Oct. 21, 2019. The president said government authorities have made it clear that Taiwan has jurisdiction over the case and has not relinquished it, but she also wanted Hong Kong to take control of the case. (NOW)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan has not given up jurisdiction in a 2018 murder case involving two Hong Kong citizens, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Tuesday, amid an ongoing controversy over whether Taiwan should accept the suspect into its territory to answer questions.

The president said government authorities have made it clear that Taiwan has jurisdiction over the case and has not relinquished it, but she also wanted Hong Kong to take control of the case.

The case dates back to February 2018, when Chan Tung-kai (陳同佳) allegedly murdered his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing (潘曉穎) while the two were traveling in Taiwan. Poon’s body was found in a suitcase dumped in a field near a subway station in New Taipei in March 2018.

By that time, Chan had used Poon’s ATM card to get cash and left the country. It was only after Chan had returned to Hong Kong that Taiwanese police identified him as the main suspect and sought his return to face trial in Taiwan.

The lack of an extradition treaty between Taiwan and Hong Kong made that impossible, but more recently Chan has expressed a willingness to turn himself in to Taiwanese authorities.

Tsai’s government has refused to accept Chan’s request on political grounds, however, and on Tuesday the president argued that Hong Kong should exercise its jurisdiction over the case.

Both the alleged murderer Chan and his alleged victim Poon are Hong Kong citizens, and Taiwan believes that key evidence and interview transcripts regarding the case are still in Hong Kong, Tsai said.

Taiwan, therefore, deems it “only natural” for Hong Kong authorities to press murder charges against Chan and have him tried in Hong Kong, the president said.

“But now we are seeing that the Hong Kong government is apparently reluctant to exercise its judicial jurisdiction over the case,” she said.

She reiterated her government’s stance in urging the Hong Kong side to reconsider its decision when it announced last week that it was willing to send Chan to Taiwan to facilitate the investigation.

The president also said Taiwan has made “related preparations” to exercise its jurisdiction, without explaining what they might be.

At the same time, Tsai also called on the two sides to work closely together by sharing information and evidence related to the case to facilitate the investigation.

Tsai’s remarks Tuesday were her first on the controversy over how Taiwan handles the high profile case, which has gained urgency because Chan is scheduled to be released from prison Wednesday after serving a sentence for stealing money from Poon’s ATM and other of Poon’s belongings after she was killed. Jurisdiction question

According to Taiwan’s Criminal Code, Taiwan has jurisdiction over all criminal cases that occur in its territory regardless of the nationality of those involved.

But the Ministry of Justice said late Monday that both Taiwan and Hong Kong have jurisdiction over the case and should both take responsibility for solving it.

In Taiwan’s view, the Hong Kong side should have priority over Taiwan in handling the case because Chan is currently in Hong Kong and has questioned him and therefore supposedly has a better picture of the alleged murder, Justice Minister Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said.

He also called on Hong Kong to have a court rule on whether Hong Kong should have jurisdiction over the case.

If the court rules that Hong Kong does not have jurisdiction, the Taiwan side will definitely cooperate and engage in further talks with the Hong Kong side on how to proceed, he said.

The Tsai government has essentially barred Chan from visiting Taiwan and said he would be arrested if he tried to enter Taiwan, a decision the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has bashed, especially considering the gruesome nature of the murder.

On Tuesday, Tsai Ing-wen’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT, blasted the decision to not accept Chan’s offer to turn himself in to local authorities.

The DPP’s decision is a political one, indicating that the ruling administration does not care about human rights and justice, Ma argued.

Ma, who held office from 2008 to 2016, said the government should accept Chan’s surrender, which would not contradict the fact that Taiwan is hoping to seal a judicial cooperation pact with Hong Kong.

In fact, he argued, if the two sides can work together to investigate and prosecute the alleged murder case, it could serve as a precedent for future cooperation in the judicial realm.

By Wu Che-hao, Wang Cheng-chung, Yu Hsiang, Liu Shi-yi, and Joseph Yeh