Murder suspect who fled to China hours after he allegedly shot dead man in Taiwan on Monday is now “trapped” in hotel quarantine upon arrival in coastal city of Xiamen – bracing for easy capture by the authorities.
Taiwanese law enforcement officials have enlisted the help of their Chinese counterparts in returning the suspected gunman to the island, the Taiwan Bureau of Criminal Investigation (CIB) told CNN on Thursday.
Foreign visitors, from tourists to students, are largely prohibited from entering mainland China. The few people allowed in, as well as returning Chinese citizens, must undergo at least 14 days of centralized quarantine – and the same goes for fugitives.
The suspect, nicknamed Huang, in his thirties, allegedly shot a 45-year-old man on Monday morning in New Taipei City, according to the Central Taiwan News Agency (CNA).
The victim sustained two gunshot wounds to the neck and was pronounced dead at a local hospital later Monday, according to local police, who learned of the shooting around 8 a.m. local time.
Huang, meanwhile, allegedly fled the scene in a silver car, which he is later accused of leaving in a mall parking lot, CNA reported. He then allegedly tried to cover his tracks by changing clothes twice and taking different modes of transport to get to Taoyuan International Airport, where he boarded a plane that left for mainland China to noon, according to the report.
Huang is said to be in quarantine at a hotel in Xiamen, CNA reported.
Taiwanese police are investigating the case, according to CNA. The report adds that the Chinese Ministry of Public Security has received CIB’s extradition request.
In its response to CNN, the CIB declined to comment on the progress of the extradition, citing ongoing negotiations with Chinese authorities.
“(He) may escape arrest by Taiwanese police, but he cannot escape the mainland’s epidemic prevention and control measures,” a senior commentary said on Weibo.
“After arriving on the mainland, he had to be taken to quarantine as soon as he got off the plane!” said another.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Chinese Taiwan Affairs Bureau, took note of the reports of the shooting, without giving any details. “We are currently checking the details of the situation,” she said.
On Weibo, some users see the case as an opportunity to advance Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over autonomous Taiwan.
“I hope the trial will be held on the mainland and the central government will uphold justice for compatriots in Taiwan, so that we can truly benefit Taiwan and warm people’s hearts,” a popular commentary said.
Beijing considers the democracy of 24 million people to be part of its territory, although the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan. For decades after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, animosity reigned between Beijing and Taipei, with trade, travel and communications largely cut off and military conflicts erupting.
But tensions began to ease in the late 1980s, and in 1990 the two sides signed the Kinmen Accord, which allowed them to hand over illegal immigrants, suspects and convicted criminals to each other.
In 2009, Beijing and Taipei signed a new agreement that institutionalizes the fight against cross-strait crime and mutual legal assistance, covering “narcotics, smuggling, money laundering, fraud, corruption and other economic crimes ”.
Since then, Taiwan has received 502 suspected criminals from China, according to data provided by the Taiwan Ministry of Justice.
Previous high-profile extradition cases include former Taiwanese judge Lee Dong-ying, who fled to southern China’s Guangdong Province after being convicted of corruption in Taiwan, and Chen Yung-chih, a wanted criminal who has been involved in at least five shootings on the island.
China, meanwhile, has taken in 21 people from Taiwan, according to the island’s justice ministry.
But relations between Beijing and Taipei have become icy since Tsai Ing-wen of the traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party became president of Taiwan in 2016. And with it, the number of cross-strait extraditions has also plummeted.
In 2015, Beijing surrendered 63 wanted fugitives in Taipei. That number plunged to 17 the following year and has been dropping steadily since. Last year, only four suspects were returned to Taiwan from China.
And this year, in September, no suspects had been extradited.