Editorial:Twists and turns over Chan Tong-kai's surrender

【明報專訊】The murder case allegedly perpetrated by Chan Tong-kai has reignited a row between Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Taipei authorities have claimed that the two sides have long set up a ''window for liaison'' regarding the case and everything depends on Chan's and the Hong Kong government's sense of responsibility. The Hong Kong government has refuted the claim, saying that the so-called ''single window liaison point'' is merely a unilateral description by Taiwan. All the key evidence of Chan's case is in Taiwan. A year has passed since Chan was released after serving his sentence for money laundering. Till now, he still cannot turn himself in to Taiwan because the political manoeuvres by the Taipei authorities have become the biggest obstacles to his surrender. Tsai Ing-wen's government has tried to push the Hong Kong government into having a formal ''government to government'' negotiation with Taipei, which involves the complicated struggle across the Taiwan Strait as well as the ''One-China'' principle. However, one should go back to the basics. Given the fact that Chan has reiterated his willingness to surrender, if Taipei really means to be committed to the rule of law, it should stop playing politics and facilitate Chan's surrender and trial in an active manner, so that the deceased can rest in peace and her family can be relieved.

Because of the special relationship between the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, in order not to touch upon the complex issue of sovereignty and the ''One-China'' principle, there has never been an official relationship or exchange between the Hong Kong government and the Taipei authorities. Despite the absence of any mutual legal assistance agreement between Hong Kong and Taiwan, there is a long-standing co-operation mechanism in real practice between the police forces of the two sides. Chan Tong-kai was jailed in Hong Kong for charges including money laundering. After he was released last October upon completion of his sentence, he indicated that he was willing to surrender to Taiwan for the murder charge. At that time, the Hong Kong government wanted to transfer the suspect in the same way as the Tsuen Wan ''cement-coffin'' murder case was handled in 2016, meaning that Chan would be accompanied by a Taiwan police officer in a low-profile manner on his flight to Taiwan. However, the Taiwan side demanded the Hong Kong government sign an agreement of mutual legal assistance first, turning the whole thing into a stalemate.

Because Chan has completed his sentence and been released, legally he is a free man. If he wants to surrender himself to the Taiwanese authorities, that will be his personal decision. The arrangements regarding his surrender should be discussed by Chan's lawyer and Taiwan. After a consensus is reached by the two sides, the Hong Kong government may then provide some technical assistance. However, the Taipei authorities insist on handling the matter on the ''government to government'' level. Although the Hong Kong government has reiterated that the existing Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance does not apply to Taiwan and the law has not given the Hong Kong government any authority to intervene as to whether Chan surrenders or not, the Taiwanese government has stressed repeatedly that ''the Hong Kong authorities'' have not communicated with Taiwan regarding the case. Premier Su Tseng-chang has even made it clear that the governments of Taiwan and Hong Kong should ''have proper discussions'' about the matter.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council has claimed many times that Taiwan and Hong Kong have already set up a ''single window liaison point'' regarding Chan's surrender. But the Hong Kong government has categorically denied the claim, stressing that it is merely a unilateral description by Taiwan. International mutual legal assistance in criminal matters refers to the ''government to government'' consultations and mutual assistance between two places. The prerequisite is that the two sides must set up a window for dialogue. By comparison, the sort of mutual legal assistance between Taiwan and Hong Kong in the past has been achieved through channels under the table. The Democratic Progressive Party government wants to change the past model of practical handling of issues between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Still, the Hong Kong government is bound to respect the ''One-China'' principle regarding all issues related to Taiwan. Any move that comes with overtones of Taiwan independence is unacceptable. If the Taipei authorities are determined to follow this direction, Chan's path to his surrender is doomed to have many twists and turns.

明報社評 2020.10.06:陳同佳案再起波瀾 台方政治操作不休





■/ Glossary 生字 /

row /raʊ/:a serious argument between people, organisations, etc. about sth

window:​a time when there is an opportunity to do sth, although it may not last long

overtone /ˈəʊvətəʊn/:an attitude or an emotion that is suggested and is not expressed in a direct way


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