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My Take

Hong Kong and Macau must reach deal not to shelter fugitives

Even an agreement with Taiwan was possible in “body-in-cement” murder case, so why are those convicted in Macau roaming free in Hong Kong?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 April, 2016, 11:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2016, 8:36pm

The return of four suspects in a murder case from Taiwan raises interesting questions about rendition or extradition. There is no formal exchange of fugitives between the two places. Yet, if there is a will among the law-enforcement agencies concerned, a way can always be found.

The transfer of three men followed the assistance of a female co-suspect with the police in the “body-in-cement” murder case. It was the first of its kind after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. No doubt it went ahead because the case had no political overtone and was a purely criminal investigation.

The transfer should pave the way for a formal rendition arrangement between Hong Kong and Taiwan. It will need support from Beijing and Taiwan’s incoming Democratic Progressive Party government. But there should be no real obstacles to such a pact. A spokesman for Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency said the latest cooperation could pave the way for a mutual legal assistance agreement with Hong Kong.

No bail for three defendants in Hong Kong body-in-cement case

But why just Taiwan? Macau and Hong Kong also have no formal arrangement to exchange suspects or fugitives. But both special administrative regions are part of China. They have none of the historical and diplomatic baggage that complicates Beijing’s relations with Taiwan. Would it be so hard to establish such a formal exchange? Given the close geographic and economic ties between Hong Kong and Macau, and mutual criminal activities in both places, such a rendition arrangement seems long overdue.

There are now powerful and wealthy fugitives convicted in Macau courts who reside openly in Hong Kong. Yet no action is being taken to detain and transfer them to face justice. The usual argument from government officials is that there is no rendition agreement.

Revealed in court: body-in-cement murder victim was tied up, with plastic bag and pillowcase over head

The latest Taiwan transfer gives the lie away. It shows that when two jurisdictions are willing to cooperate, there is nothing to stop such transfers, even in the absence of a formal treaty or agreement.

It’s anyone’s guess why Macau and Hong Kong officials don’t seem to feel the urgency in the matter. Perhaps some convicted felons are too powerful to touch. Those suspects in “body-in-cement” murder case were nobodies. Maybe that’s why it was so much easier to send them back.