Taiwan said Tuesday it had asked Hong Kong for help in collecting a murder suspect who has agreed to return to the island to face trial for killing his girlfriend in a case which inadvertently triggered massive democracy protests.
The surprise announcement came just hours after Taipei had said it was Hong Kong’s responsibility to put him on trial.
Chan Tong-kai, 20, is wanted in Taiwan for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend during a holiday the two Hong Kongers took there in February last year.
He fled back to Hong Kong where Taiwanese police were unable to apprehend him because there is no extradition agreement between the two territories.
The case triggered an ill-fated proposal by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government to ram through a sweeping extradition bill which would have allowed the city to extradite suspects to any territory, including the authoritarian mainland.
The announcement from Taipei came after Taiwan’s government had earlier insisted it would not accept Chan surrendering himself to local authorities unless a judicial cooperation agreement was reached between the two sides.
Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s top policy-making on China, said Taipei was waiting for a reply from Hong Kong.
“We waited from yesterday till today for a positive response from Hong Kong and it’s obvious that Hong Kong is giving up its jurisdiction and that is irreversible so Taiwan will take over prosecuting” the case, Chiu told reporters.
“Chan will be released from prison tomorrow and we cannot sit back and see him at large. Today we requested Hong Kong’s assistance for our personnel to go to Hong Kong to bring back Chan and relevant evidence in order to actively demonstrate our jurisdiction,” Chiu added.
The now-scrapped extradition proposal sparked a massive public backlash with record-breaking crowds hitting the streets in Hong Kong.
The protests have since snow-balled as the movement seeks greater democracy and police accountability after Beijing and Hong Kong leaders took a hard line and violence escalated.
Now the man who set off this tumultuous chain of events has indicated he is willing to go to Taiwan to stand trial, according to a clergyman who has visited him regularly in prison.
Chan is currently serving a short jail sentence in Hong Kong after he was convicted earlier this year of stealing his girlfriend’s possessions during a trial in which he did not dispute murdering Poon Hiu-wing.
The Hong Kong government said in a statement late Monday that Chan had decided to surrender himself “voluntarily” to Taiwan and that his case could be handled independently without a judicial assistance deal.