Taipei appeals to HK for help in hunt for Taiwanese robbery suspect

08-Nov-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Taiwan has called on Hong Kong to cooperate with its legal authorities after a Taiwanese suspect allegedly robbed a watch store at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon early last month and then fled to the island.

While stressing the island’s jurisdiction over the case, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and Ministry of Justice appealed to Hong Kong late on Tuesday for information to enable them to find the suspect.

“We have learned about this from news reports, and we need further clarification from police and relevant authorities of the two sides, such as whether the [Taiwanese] national involved did commit the crime of robbery,” the council said.

On Tuesday, the Post reported that a Taiwanese resident posed as a customer to rob the Mody Road shop in Tsim Sha Tsui on the morning of October 6, the day he arrived in Hong Kong.



According to police, the man threatened staff with what appeared to be a pistol, before taking two watches valued at HK$990,000 (US$126,000) and running from the shop.

Investigators found that the suspect escaped by taxi and had fled to Taiwan. Hong Kong police said he was a holder of a Taiwanese travel document.

The council said that under the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, Taiwanese people involved in robbery in Hong Kong and Macau could be tried and, if convicted, sentenced to at least three years in jail by the island’s authorities.

Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau said it was seeking help from Hong Kong police through unofficial channels.

“Although the case occurred in Hong Kong, Taiwan still has the jurisdiction over it,” the council said, in a position that contrasted with the handling of Hongkonger and murder suspect Chan Tong-kai.

Chan allegedly killed his 20-year-old pregnant girlfriend, also from Hong Kong, during a holiday in Taiwan in February last year and returned to the city soon after.

He was arrested and jailed on money laundering charges related to the handling of his late girlfriend’s property, serving 19 months in custody. On the advice of an Anglican pastor, Chan agreed to surrender to Taiwanese authorities on his release but Chan remains in Hong Kong.

Before he was released from Hong Kong’s Pik Uk prison in late October, the island’s authorities refused to follow up on the murder charge against Chan although prosecutors had issued an arrest warrant. At the time, Taiwan said the case involved Hong Kong citizens and the city’s authorities had jurisdiction.

A lack of arrangements with Taiwan on dealing with fugitives led to Hong Kong’s ill-fated extradition bill, which triggered months of protests.

Pressure on Taiwan’s government and President Tsai Ing-wen forced a U-turn last month, when Tsai pledged to uphold the island’s jurisdiction over the case.

“The [robbery] suspect is now a free man in Taiwan because under the current system, the Hong Kong government cannot request Taiwanese authorities to arrest the man and send him to Hong Kong to face trial,” a Hong Kong government source said.

The source said Hong Kong police could put the suspect on a list of wanted persons through Interpol. If the suspect travelled to member countries such as the United States, he could be extradited after his arrest.

Taiwan was forced to withdraw from Interpol in 1984, when mainland China joined the organisation.

Lawrence Yeung Sin-hang, a Hong Kong-based lawyer familiar with Taiwanese law, said the island’s courts had jurisdiction to try the suspected robber and would be unlikely to surrender him even if the Hong Kong authorities made a request.

“According to the principles of international law, a place would not normally send its people to another jurisdiction when it has the power to try them,” Yeung, a partner at ONC Lawyers, said.

Whether the suspect would then end up in a Taiwanese court depended on how much detail the authorities in Hong Kong would be willing to provide, and how useful the evidence would be after passing between two vastly different legal systems without a mutual legal assistance agreement, he said.

University of Hong Kong law professor Simon Young Ngai-man said that in general, if there were good relations between the law enforcement agencies of different regions, they could exchange information.

“But information like intelligence may not make good evidence in a court of law, this is why formal mutual legal assistance cooperation is entered into,” he said.

“It may be that CCTV evidence and witness statements might be shared by the Hong Kong Police Force but it’s a question of Taiwanese law whether such evidence would be admissible in a Taiwanese court.”



Category: Taiwan

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