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China to take custody of couple over diplomat deaths in Philippines

Published 22/10/2015

Police mark the crime scene with tape where two Chinese diplomats were killed in Cebu province, central Philippines. (AP)
Police mark the crime scene with tape where two Chinese diplomats were killed in Cebu province, central Philippines. (AP)

Beijing has invoked diplomatic immunity for a Chinese couple suspected in the shooting deaths of two Chinese diplomats and the wounding of the country's consul-general in the central Philippines, and will take custody of them.

A Chinese man has been accused of killing diplomats Sun Shan and Hui Li and injuring consul-general Song Ronghua on Wednesday in a restaurant in Cebu City, where they worked at Beijing's consulate.

Police say the alleged attacker is the husband of another Chinese diplomat who has also been taken into custody.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said Beijing has invoked the Chinese couple's diplomatic immunity under the 1961 Vienna Convention and a 2009 bilateral accord and has asked to take custody of them so they can be investigated and possibly tried in China.

"The Chinese government would like to take custody of them and they will have to undergo the Chinese legal process," department spokesman Charles Jose said at a news conference.

The 1961 Vienna Convention spells out protections afforded to diplomats and embassy staff, including immunity from local laws and criminal prosecution. China and the Philippines agreed in a 2009 accord that their consular diplomats enjoy those immunities.

Mr Jose said Chinese and Philippine officials are discussing the transfer of custody, which is to occur after a security team arrives from Beijing. The suspects are currently still in the custody of Philippine police in Cebu, about 350 miles south of Manila, at Beijing's request, he said.

Initially, reports differed on whether the man or the woman was the suspected shooter but Mr Jose backed police findings, based on witness accounts and security camera video at the restaurant where the shootings happened, that the husband allegedly fired the shots.

"The shooting was an extreme act of a relative of a staff of the consulate," Mr Jose said.

Police Chief Superintendent Prudencio Tom Banas said the couple has not issued any statement that could explain the motivation for the attacks.

The victims and the suspects were attending a birthday lunch in a private room at the Lighthouse restaurant when the shooting occurred.

Citing witnesses and video from a restaurant security camera, Mr Banas said the gunman first fired at the consul-general and his deputy, Sun Shan, in the room. Hui Li, a finance officer, ran outside the room but the attacker followed and shot her, he said.

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