TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s top official responsible for China affairs on Thursday said the government has established a single “contact channel” for a Hong Kong murder suspect to inform them when he is ready to surrender to local authorities.
Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) told a legislative session that following the establishment of the contact channel, Taiwan’s government has officially informed the Hong Kong authorities that suspect Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳) should use it to inform the Taiwan authorities when he plans to return to the country.
According to Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂), the channel has been set up by the nation’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) under the Interior Ministry’s National Police Agency.
As soon as Chan arrives in Taiwan he will be arrested by police and turned over to prosecutors responsible for investigating his alleged involvement in the murder of his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing (潘曉穎) when the two were in Taiwan in Feb. 2018, according to Chen Ming-tang.
According to the MAC chief, this arrangement is intended to expedite the arrangements for Chan’s return to Taiwan. After Chan allegedly murdered Poon, he fled the country before Taiwanese police identified him as the main suspect.
Taiwanese authorities sought his return to face trial in Taiwan and asked Hong Kong to cooperate in the investigation, but without an extradition treaty, Chan remained in Hong Kong, where he was imprisoned after being found guilty of using Poon’s ATM card and stealing her money.
The prison term for that crime ended Wednesday when Chan was released from jail.
Although Chan has repeatedly expressed his willingness to turn himself in to the Taiwanese authorities to face trial, the murder case has since been turned into a political football by the two sides.
Hong Kong has consistently maintained it cannot prosecute Chan on murder charges because the key evidence is in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s prosecutors issued an arrest warrant and sought Chan’s return for trial, but the government later rejected the idea on political grounds and asked Hong Kong to prosecute the case.
However, after being accused of ceding jurisdiction over the case, Taiwan’s government reversed course again. On Tuesday, it asked Hong Kong to allow law enforcement officials to go to Hong Kong and escort Chan back to Taiwan.
That request was promptly rejected as Chan is now a free man and the Hong Kong government said it has no authority to simply hand him over.
In a move defending the Taiwan government’s seemingly contradictory statements, MAC Minister Chen said Thursday that the Taiwan side has maintained the same stance: both Hong Kong and Taiwan have jurisdiction over the case.
If Hong Kong wanted to investigate the case, Taiwan would be willing to hand over related information. However, the Hong Kong government has no intention of doing that, Chen said.
“If that is the case, we are asking the Hong Kong side to give us related investigation and interview records on Chan and we will take care of it,” he added.
Late Thursday MAC indicated the Hong Kong police had agreed to inform Taiwan’s CIB if Chan agrees to return.
One of the reasons Taiwan suspects China could be behind Chan’s decision to surrender is because he was apparently persuaded to surrender by Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon (管浩鳴) of the Hong Kong Anglican Church.
Koon is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPCC), a political legislative advisory body to China’s government. The CPCC has 2,000 members, approximately one third of whom are not Communist Party members.
The government believes the surrender is politically motivated to try to get Taiwan to endorse the idea of extradition, after an extradition bill in Hong Kong that would have allowed criminals in the territory to be extradited to China, Taiwan or Macau triggered massive protests.
Taiwan opposed the now-withdrawn extradition bill, saying that it viewed Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China like Hong Kong and Macau and is demanding a separate deal similar to those Hong Kong signed with 30-plus countries around the world.
Meanwhile, Koon said late Wednesday that Chan was not scheduled to travel to Taiwan on Thursday and indicated he would inform the public when the surrender will happen should Chan make a decision.
Koon said Chan is worried that the case has been so politicized it may be impossible for him to get a fair trial in Taiwan.
A Taiwan government source told CNA that anyone who plans to accompany Chan to Taiwan should inform the Taiwan authorities via the CIB contact channel.
(By Liu Shih-yi, Chen Chun-hua, Ku Chuan and Joseph Yeh)