Taiwan rejects ‘malicious accusations’ of HK security chief as row over five suspected fugitives rumbles on

18-Sep-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 2:09 PM Print This Post

Taiwanese authorities have rejected as “malicious accusations” suggestions by Hong Kong’s security chief that Taipei had sought to “harbour criminals” in its handling of five suspected fugitives who allegedly fled to the self-ruled island in an asylum bid.

The island’s Mainland Affairs Council, the governmental body responsible for cross-strait, Hong Kong and Macau policies, confirmed on Thursday it had received inquiries about the case but did not say how it would follow up.

The council’s deputy minister, Chiu Chui-cheng, told a regular press briefing that the Taipei authorities would study and process the inquiries from the Hong Kong side accordingly, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.

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On Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu’s allegations that Taiwan was harbouring criminals, Chiu said the council would not accept malicious accusations.

Chiu did not comment on the case any further or confirm the identities of the five, who have been in detention since reportedly being picked up by Taiwan’s coastguard in late July. He said speculation surrounding the case could be motivated by unclear purposes and harm the individuals and the mechanism established to help Hong Kong people.

Taiwan said in June it would establish an office dedicated to assisting residents from the city who wanted to seek asylum on the island out of fear they would be prosecuted at home over alleged involvement in the city’s anti-government protests.

The council set up the Taiwan-Hong Kong Service and Exchange Office in July.

Chiu said Taiwan supported Hong Kong having democracy but would not encourage people to travel to the island through illegal means.

The row between the two sides flared after reports surfaced last month of five Hong Kong fugitives, allegedly fleeing to seek political asylum, being intercepted by Taiwan’s coastguard in late July after their boat ran out of fuel and drifted towards the Pratas Islands, also known as the Dongsha Islands.

At least two reportedly faced rioting charges in Hong Kong stemming from last year’s social unrest, but the identities of the five have not been confirmed.

The Central News Agency reported late on Sunday that the five had “basic rights, including access to lawyers”, citing an unnamed source.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau first appealed for their return more than two weeks ago.

In a piece posted earlier this week on the bureau’s website, Lee said the government had not heard anything from Taiwan over the past two months. He called on Taipei to “take responsibility for combating cross-boundary crimes, and not to harbour anyone who is suspected to have committed crimes in Hong Kong”.

Lee asked Taiwan to send back the group. “The Hong Kong police have already made inquiries to the Taiwan side about the situation and are awaiting its reply,” he wrote.

According to Hong Kong authorities, dozens of protesters have fled to Taiwan, but no extradition treaty exists between the two jurisdictions. Hong Kong cited the lack of a formal arrangement in launching last year’s ill-fated extradition bill, which sparked the social unrest that rocked the city for months.

The introduction on June 30 of a sweeping national security law targeting acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, along with its reach into other jurisdictions, has further complicated ties between the two governments.

In a separate case, China’s coastguard announced on August 26 that it had intercepted 12 activists from Hong Kong in mainland waters, with the group believed to be fleeing to Taiwan. They were remanded in Yantian district in Shenzhen.



Category: Hong Kong, Taiwan

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