The government should amend the law to give Hong Kong's courts the authority to try a murder suspect wanted in Taiwan, a legal scholar said on Thursday.
University of Hong Kong professor Eric Cheung said this would ensure that Chan Tong-kai was afforded a fair trial, and prevent his case from being further politicised.
Chan is wanted in Taiwan for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing. He fled back to Hong Kong, which has no extradition agreement with Taiwan. Local courts also have no extraterritorial jurisdiction for murder cases.
However, Chan was jailed in April for stealing Poon’s money and valuables. He also allegedly confessed to the killing.
Chan was released from prison on Wednesday, and has promised to surrender himself to Taiwanese authorities. However, that process has been complicated as Taiwan and Hong Kong disagree on how Chan should be transferred.
"We need to be careful, we need to safeguard the core values of our rule of law, which include the right to have a fair trial," Cheung told RTHK's Janice Wong.
"And given the recent developments, personally, I do have concerns whether Chan can receive a fair trial in Taiwan," he said, noting that the island has the death penalty for certain crimes, including murder.
He said since Chan and the victim are both Hong Kong citizens, he sees no reason why Hong Kong courts should not have jurisdiction over the case.
"It is not unprecedented, even though I accept the traditional common law approach is not to confer Hong Kong courts with extraterritorial jurisdiction," he said. "But there are already exceptions through legislative amendments, for example, certain sexual offences against young people or children."
He said the idea has already been floated by bodies such as the Law Society, and if there is a consensus in society, amendments could be passed through the Legislative Council fairly quickly.
Cheung said if lawmakers have concerns about how the law could be applied to other cases in the future, they could add a sunset clause to the amendment so they could scrutinise it in more detail later.
Chan's case sparked the administration's efforts to introduce contentious amendments to extradition laws, which would have enabled suspects to be sent to the mainland for trial.
Opposition to the amendments eventually led to its withdrawal, but have morphed into a wider political crisis that have engulfed the city for nearly five months.