The government of democratic Taiwan has called on the Hong Kong authorities to allow them to escort a murder suspect back from the city in spite of the lack of any formal ties between the two territories.
Taiwan has suggested sending "officers" to apprehend Chan Tong-kai, a Hong Kong resident wanted for the murder of his Hong Kong girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing during a trip to Taiwan last year.
Chan is due to be released in Hong Kong on Wednesday after serving a sentence for money-laundering in connection with money he stole from Poon. He has yet to be charged with murder in any jurisdiction.
The case was cited by Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam as the main motivation for changes to the city's extradition laws, a plan which has sparked months of mass protest and popular resistance on the city's streets since early June.
"The Hong Kong government has relinquished its judicial power over citizens committing criminal behavior outside Hong Kong," Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters.
"For Taiwan, since the crime happened here, we are willing to administer the case, but the Hong Kong government must provide us with necessary assistance," she said.
Taiwan has requested that the Hong Kong authorities assist in handing Chan over to them, but also that the city's police force use legally attested chain-of-evidence procedures in handing over any existing evidence from interviews with Chan in custody.
But Hong Kong's Security Bureau said Chan had volunteered to turn himself in to the Taiwan authorities on getting out of jail.
"It must be emphasized that Chan will be a free man upon prison discharge," the bureau said in a statement. "It is up to him whether to go to Taiwan."
The crime of homicide occurred in Taiwan, with the body of the deceased, key witnesses and relevant evidence all in Taiwan, and so the Taiwan authorities have "absolute jurisdiction" over that case, it said.
Fugitive Offenders Ordinance
In Taiwan, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) deputy minister Chiu Chui-cheng said: "We hope for swift and positive response from the Hong Kong authorities and their assistance so that the case could be properly processed as people in both Taiwan and Hong Kong are hoping to see."
Taiwan authorities have sought Chan's extradition since he returned to Hong Kong last year, and Lam has said that her desire to find a way to hand him over legally was behind her planned amendments to the city's Fugitive Offenders Ordinance that sparked the anti-extradition movement.
Taipei had earlier insisted that Chan be handed over through a proper judicial assistance channel in recognition of its status as a sovereign country, the 1911 Republic of China that still controls the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.
Tsai had told Hong Kong to either try murder suspect Chan itself, or hand over to Taipei the relevant evidence in the case, following unconfirmed reports that Chan had confessed to the murder.
Hong Kong's Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung said Hong Kong couldn't detain Chan on Taiwan's behalf, however.
"Hong Kong endorses the principle of territorial jurisdiction under the common law system....The Hong Kong government will collaborate wherever possible, but it must be within our power," he said.
Hong Kong's Justice Department said there is no legal rationale to detain somebody who has finished serving a prison term.
Hong Kong barrister Anson Wong said the Taiwanese authorities won't have the jurisdiction to detain Wong, so can't compel him to return to the island to face the accusation of murder.
"If he is not in Taiwan, Taiwan has no power to take him back," Wong said. "If Taiwan forces him to get on the plane, he can call the police in Hong Kong for assistance, and even apply for a personal protection order."
Reported by Man Hoi-tsan and Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.