Hong Kong man who killed girlfriend in Taiwan may never be charged for murder

Hong Kong does not recognize Taiwan's judicial system, so the case of Chan Tong-kai and the murder of Poon Hui-wing faces obstacles to reach a trial

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Images: HK Police Handout (left) and photo from Chan's FB page (right)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – According to reports from Hong Kong based media, as of March 17, Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳), the suspect in the recent murder of his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing (潘曉穎), while they were on a vacation to Taiwan, has so far only been charged with theft and handling stolen goods.

He has not been charged with the murder, since there has been no opportunity for Taiwanese investigators to question him. Even more alarming, some analysts are suggesting that because of legal “loopholes” existing between the judicial systems in Taiwan and Hong Kong, that Chan may never face trial for the murder.

Chan came to Taiwan with Poon for a Valentine ’s Day trip in February. After returning to Hong Kong on Feb. 17 without Poon, her family became suspicious and alerted authorities.

After his arrest by Hong Kong police, Chan ultimately admitted to strangling Poon, reportedly because he was enraged at the thought that she might have been pregnant with another man’s child. He told officers that he left the body in a suitcase near the Zhuwei MRT station in New Taipei’s Tamsui District.

After authorities in Taiwan were alerted, security camera footage was discovered showing the young man leaving his hotel room with a huge pink suitcase. Officers were then able to find the badly decomposed body in the field where Chan said he left it.

However, now that Chan is in custody and Poon’s body has been found, authorities are facing a serious legal conundrum of how Chan will be charged for the murder since Hong Kong authorities have no access to the evidence, and Taiwanese authorities have no access to the suspect.

According to a local judge in Hong Kong quoted by SCMP, unless the courts can come to a special arrangement, the suspect “could be able to get away from the harsh penalty” because legally Hong Kong does not recognize Taiwan’s jurisdiction.

Since the government of Hong Kong, or likewise Beijing, does not recognize the judicial authority of the Taiwanese courts, there is little chance Chan will be extradited to face charges in Taiwan.

Taiwan has asked for assistance from the Hong Kong authorities in handling the case, however without a suspect in custody, it is very unlikely that criminal proceedings for a charge of murder will be able to proceed in Taiwan. Even tried in absentia, the Hong Kong authorities would have no reason to recognize any verdict from Taiwan.

To seek justice for Poon Hui-wing, any murder trial will likely have to be conducted in Hong Kong. If an agreement can be reached for prosecutors to try Chan for the murder in Hong Kong, then Taiwanese police will have to possibly take the role of key witnesses and may even have to surrender evidence to Hong Kong investigators.

Currently, Chan is only being held on theft charges, for withdrawing money from Poon’s bank account with her bank card and for returning to Taiwan with her camera and phone, which have been determined stolen property.

Given the lack of diplomatic recognition and judicial agreements between Hong Kong and Bejing on one side, and Taipei on the other, this case could  turn into a very complicated legal affair.