On 6 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously found that the extradition of a Taiwanese national to China, which Poland’s courts had cleared earlier, would place him at significant risk of ill-treatment, torture violating his Human Rights.
The case was brought by Taiwanese citizen Hung Tao Liu after his extradition had been approved by the Polish authorities and was approved by the Supreme Court. The appellant held that his extradition to China would violate Articles 3 and 6 of the ECHR, concerning torture and ill-treatment and deprivation of the right to a fair trial. Hung Tao Liu, was accused of being part of a major online fraud group (Sino-Taiwanese Cross-Border Telecom Fraud) operating out of Spain. The group of nearly 260 people consisted primarily of Taiwanese citizens. A joint Spanish-Chinese policing operation arrested the group in 2016-2017.
In 2017-2018, in breach of the ECHR, the Spanish Courts approved the extradition of approximately 200 Taiwanese to China. The lawyers representing them attempted to file the case to the ECtHR, but it was rejected, and the extraditions were carried out. Several of those extradited completely lost contact with their lawyers and they have been unable to find out where they are being held and under what conditions. INTERPOL issued a red notice for Hung Tao Liu on 8 December 2016, and he was detained in Poland on 6 August 2017. On 1 September that year, China requested Liu’s extradition. Τhereafter the Polish authorities asked for additional information, which was provided on 8 January 2018.
On 27 February 2018, the Polish Court concluded the extradition could proceed, and that the information and assurances provided, upon review were sufficient. The Warsaw Appeals Court upheld the decision on 26 July 2018, saying it agreed because the information provided by China: “emphasised that there were no reasons to conclude that the applicant would be at any risk of a violation of his rights”.
Following a request for an interim measure, to stop the extradition pending further review, which was finally issued by the ECtHR, the execution of the extradition was stopped. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court and it was only when the Appeal was dismissed on 1 October 2020 that Liu's lawyers decided to take his case to the ECtHR. Liu has now been in custody for more than five years. Due to this, Polish authorities themselves have now been found to be in breach of Article 5 of the ECHR, concerning arbitrary detention. Besides denying the extradition and ordering Liu to be set free, the court also instructed Poland to pay damages.
The judgment will impact most European countries as it will limit, if not make it impossible for them to extradite suspects to China. The judgment will also operate as a guide to all European countries’ national courts on extradition to China in the future, as well as governments/Ministries of justice, which will now have to approve the initiation of an extradition process once requested by China.
You can read the full judgment here.