Hong Kong authorities are proposing changes to some existing laws to clear the way for extradition of people who are charged with serious crimes in any other jurisdiction.
In a document submitted to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Security on Tuesday, the Security Bureau suggested amending relevant laws to make it easier for the government to surrender Hongkongers involved in crimes that took place in other jurisdictions.
The move comes as authorities grapple with the case of a Hong Kong youth who is being sought by Taiwan prosecutors for an alleged murder on the island a year ago.
Taiwanese police have sought to question a 19-year-old Hong Kong man who is suspected to have killed his girlfriend and stuffed her body in a suitcase before returning to Hong Kong.
The crime is believed to have taken place when the pair was on a trip to the island in February 2018.
Following the incident, Hong Kong authorities found themselves struggling with a call for extradition as the territory’s current laws related to such action do not apply to Taiwan.
To plug the loophole, the government is now proposing amending the law to help bring such fugitives to justice.
Hong Kong, under the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance and the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, has so far signed agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters with 32 jurisdictions and on the surrender of fugitive offenders with 20 jurisdictions.
However, these ordinances stipulate that China, including Taiwan, is not applicable to related arrangements.
That is why the girlfriend killer, named Chan Tong-kai, could not be extradited to Taiwan, even though he was suspected of committing a crime there.
Chan, an associate degree student from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, allegedly admitted during interrogation by Hong Kong police after he was arrested in March last year that he killed his girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, 20, a student at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, and stuffed her body in a suitcase which he later dumped near a metro station in New Taipei.
However, Chan was only charged with two counts of theft and one count of handling stolen goods after he confessed to using Poon’s ATM card to withdraw money.
Taiwanese authorities had asked their counterparts in Hong Kong multiple times to extradite Chan for a court trial, but that has not happened due to restrictions from Hong Kong law.
In its document, the Security Bureau said the case exposed legal loopholes that should be closed.
Permitting a major criminal to stay in Hong Kong not only marks a violation of justice but also poses risk to public safety here, it said.
As such, the bureau recommended revision of the ordinance to allow the government, on a signed order from the chief executive, to adopt a one-off, case-based approach to hand over fugitives or offer legal assistance to all jurisdictions with which Hong Kong does not have an agreement.
According to a government source, a draft on the revision is scheduled to be tabled in Legco and it is hoped that it can be passed before the legislature takes its annual summer recess in July, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In the meanwhile, authorities will try to reach an agreement with their counterparts in Taiwan.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Poon’s mother said she hopes to see the law amended as soon as possible so that Chan can be extradited to Taiwan and face justice for her daughter’s murder.
The woman said the impasse in the case has been troubling her and her husband.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is the deputy chair of Legco’s security panel, said he would oppose the proposed legal changes as he fears the system could be abused, putting Hongkongers at risk overseas, according to RTHK.
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