Hijack suspect to stay in HK

POLICE yesterday rejected China's request for the extradition of a truck driver, held in a Hong Kong prison for his alleged role in the Far East Jetfoil hijack.

Liang Bingzhao, 33, who is charged with piracy, will face the death penalty in China.

Assistant Commissioner, Crime, David Hodson said China's request was an 'obvious, natural desire', but would be rejected because court proceedings had started.

There is no formal agreement between the two jurisdictions over the transfer of alleged offenders.

Mr Hodson said the matter was outside police hands and expressed doubt whether the application had been formally tendered.

'We can understand the obvious desire on their part to deal with the matter in their courts.

'However, this person was arrested here and is before the courts already and the judicial process is under way,' Mr Hodson said.

On Wednesday, the Guangdong Public Security Bureau said it would place three suspects on trial in Zhongshan for the hijacking and that two other suspects - Liang and Macau Judicial Police Assistant Detective Wu Shu-cheong, 33 - were also being sought for trial in China.

Criminal Investigation Brigade Director-General Zhu Mingjian said the Public Security Bureau would press ahead with negotiations over possible transfers, although he acknowledged the different judicial systems would make it difficult.

A Macau government spokesman would not comment on the Chinese request.

In Hong Kong, barrister Gerry McCoy last night said China had the legal entitlement to apply for Liang's return using a long-forgotten statute.

'The law is certainly there to affect this person's return for the charge of piracy, which is an international crime,' Mr McCoy said.

'But I doubt whether there is any political will.

'Obviously, what is needed is a rendition agreement to be in place in time for when Hong Kong becomes part of China.' The Security Branch refused to comment specifically on the demand but said the territory had no agreement with China on such matters.

The Chinese Extradition Ordinance, which dates back to an 1858 agreement, allows the Chinese to apply for the surrender of fugitive offenders by making an application to the Governor for a formal bid to be heard by a magistrate.

It was used often up until the 1930s but had not been used since 1949.

The Government has stated the ordinance is ignored in practice.

The jetfoil Guia was hijacked on June 13 by three gunmen shortly after leaving Macau.

The captain was forced to sail towards China where the gang met two accomplices in a speedboat before fleeing with $10 million in bank takings.

In his last appearance in Eastern Court on June 17, Liang - who was arrested at Kai Tak airport on June 15 - claimed he had been assaulted in police custody, and was remanded in prison.