Hong Kong protests: Echoing the case that led to the extradition bill crisis, Taiwanese robbery suspect leaves the day he arrived

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South China Morning Post

The man fled back to the island the same day he stole nearly HK $1 million in watches; prosecution is unlikely unless he returns to the city

South China Morning Post |
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The extradition bill, designed to plug legal loopholes for criminal suspects, has triggered massive social unrest on Hong Kong’s streets since June.

A Taiwanese man who visited Hong Kong to commit a robbery before returning to the self-ruled island the same day is the second suspect to benefit from the lack of an extradition agreement between the two jurisdictions. 

The absence of mutual fugitive arrangements with Taiwan, as well as formal judicial cooperation, led the Hong Kong government to bring forward its ill-fated extradition bill, which triggered months of increasingly violent protests in June that continue to this day.

Ministers wanted to plug the loopholes highlighted by the case of Hongkonger Chan Tong-kai – the murder suspect wanted in Taiwan for killing his pregnant girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing – but was forced to back down following the fierce backlash to proposals that could have exposed city residents to opaque trials in mainland China.

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In a case raising similar legal questions, the Taiwanese resident posed as a customer to rob the Mody Road shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, on the morning of his arrival in Hong Kong on October 6.

According to police, the man threatened a 31-year-old member of staff with what appeared to be a pistol, before snatching two watches worth HK$990,000 (US$126,000) and running out of the shop.

The weapon, which was later identified as an air gun, fell to the floor as the employee gave chase and grappled with the suspect outside the shop.

The extradition bill, designed to plug legal loopholes for criminal suspects, has triggered massive social unrest on Hong Kong’s streets since June.
Photo: SCMP/ Felix Wong

The robber eventually ran off, fleeing in the direction of Hanoi Road. Officers searched the area, but no one has been arrested.

After looking through CCTV footage, officers followed the suspect’s escape route via taxi from Tsim Sha Tsui to the airport.

“Investigation showed the suspect had left for Taiwan on the same day he arrived in Hong Kong,” a law enforcement source said.

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The suspect was later identified as the holder of a Taiwanese travel document after checks with officials and the airline.

It is understood the relevant government departments are trying to confirm the identity of the suspect with the Taiwanese authorities.

But a government source said a prosecution was unlikely unless the suspect returned to Hong Kong.

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“The 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,” the source said.

He said the authorities would not hand over legal evidence such as CCTV footage to Taiwanese authorities, as there was no mutual judicial cooperation between the two jurisdictions.
 
The source said it was possible the suspect was aware of the loophole and so chose to visit Hong Kong to commit crime.
 
“It’s not new, but Chan’s case might have drawn the attention of criminals in Taiwan that they can commit crimes in Hong Kong and have no responsibility if they can return to Taiwan,” he said.
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