A Hong Kong man wanted in Taiwan for allegedly strangling his pregnant girlfriend in a case used by the territory to justify controversial changes to its extradition laws was jailed yesterday, but not for murder.
Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳), 20, confessed to Hong Kong police that he killed Poon Hiu-wing (潘曉穎) and dumped her body on the outskirts of Taipei last year.
Poon, who was 20 and was five months pregnant, was allegedly strangled during a Valentine’s holiday to Taiwan by Chan, who fled back to Hong Kong, which has no extradition agreement with Taiwan.
The killing sparked sympathy for Poon’s family and was used by the Hong Kong Government to advocate changing the territory’s laws to allow extraditions on a case-by-case basis to Taiwan, Macau and China.
However, the decision to include China in those proposals sparked huge protests and a major backlash within the territory’s business and legal communities, who fear that it will hammer Hong Kong’s international appeal and tangle people up in China’s opaque courts.
With Hong Kong prosecutors unable to charge Chan for murder, he was instead charged with money laundering related to his possession of Poon’s smartphone, camera and money he withdrew from her account.
A judge sentenced him to 29 months in jail.
Judge Anthea Pang (彭寶琴) said “great frustration and a serious sense of unfairness” should not overshadow the fact that the case was a money laundering prosecution, not a murder trial.
Sentencing someone for a crime they are not convicted of would mean “short circuiting” the justice system, she said.
Having been in custody since March last year, Chan has already served 13 months.
The length of the sentence means Chan would likely not be freed until after the extradition law change — now winding its way through the Hong Kong Legislative Council — comes into effect.
The government has pointed to the murder as a reason for why the law must be swiftly changed.
However, opponents fear that the territory’s pro-Beijing establishment is using the killing to push through the deeply unpopular extradition move.
They said that Hong Kong should cooperate with Taiwan directly or consider trying homicide cases involving Hong Kong permanent residents at home.
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