A reverend helping a Hong Kong murder suspect wanted in Taiwan went to Taipei’s representative office in the city on Wednesday to apply for a visa on his behalf, but the application was not accepted, a source has told the Post.
The Anglican pastor, Peter Koon Ho-ming, acknowledged visiting the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office but maintained it was for “private matters”. Images published in local media, however, showed him carrying an application form bearing the suspect’s name, Chan Tong-kai.
The Post has learned the office did not take the application because Taiwanese authorities are insisting the Hong Kong government get in touch with them before Chan, wanted in Taiwan for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend in 2018, can apply for a visa directly from their office.
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Koon’s failure to submit the application is just the latest development in the high-profile case after a year of deadlock in securing Chan’s surrender.
The 22-year-old is wanted by Taiwanese authorities for killing his 19-year-old girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, during a holiday trip to the self-ruled island in February two years ago.
After the murder, he immediately fled back to Hong Kong, where he was sentenced to 29 months in jail for money-laundering crimes connected to the killing. However, the city’s courts did not have the jurisdiction to try him for the murder itself, nor did Hong Kong have the legal framework to extradite him to Taiwan.
Chan’s case became the impetus for the government’s failed extradition bill, which would have allowed renditions not only to Taiwan, but also the mainland. Fierce opposition to the deeply unpopular bill sparked months of citywide anti-government protests.
The case also triggered a rare dispute between Hong Kong and Taiwan, with each blaming the other for failing to ensure Chan faced justice.
The case has been back in the spotlight in recent weeks, with Poon’s mother issuing public calls for his surrender, although progress has largely stalled because of a reignited row.
Taiwan last week said it would allow Chan – who has cited the pandemic and politics as his reasons for not turning himself in – to apply for a visa at Taipei’s office in Hong Kong.
Taipei previously insisted on communicating about the case through its own special mechanism for dealing with the Hong Kong authorities, while the latter refused to do so on the grounds that Chan was now a free man in the eyes of the local courts.
Reverend Koon – who has been helping Chan because he went to an Anglican school – was photographed visiting the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Admiralty on Wednesday carrying a file containing a passport, an identity card and a form bearing Chan’s name.
However, a source said Koon was asked to leave before he had the opportunity to present the document. While the visa option was still available, the source said, Taiwan expected the Hong Kong authorities to give them a heads-up before Chan resorted to this option.
When approached by the press, Koon said: “I was at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office today for private matters. The full details shall not be disclosed.”
Koon previously said that Chan had hired lawyers in Taiwan to reach out to the authorities this week. But Hsu Kuo-yung, Taipei’s interior minister, said the lawyers had only contacted the prosecutors’ office in Shilin district – where the murder took place – not the mechanism set up by the police and Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which deals with matters relating to Hong Kong.
On Monday, Poon’s mother issued an ultimatum for Chan to make use of the new visa option to surrender himself to Taiwan, saying if he did not, she would not offer testimony on his behalf.
“If you don’t board a flight to Taiwan by October 23, I will not mitigate for you,” she said.
Chan was released from Hong Kong prison on October 23 last year after completing his sentence for the money laundering offence.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong murder suspect Chan Tong-kai’s voluntary surrender in fresh doubt as Taiwan demands formal handover
- Hong Kong murder suspect Chan Tong-kai’s transfer to Taiwan may be delayed until after island’s presidential election
- Murder suspect Chan Tong-kai’s release from Hong Kong prison: media scrum, press motorcade and police protection