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China to Take Custody of Chinese Couple in Philippines Deaths

Police mark the crime scene with a yellow tape where two Chinese diplomats were killed in Cebu province, central Philippines on Wednesday Oct. 21, 2015.

The Philippine government says it is turning two Chinese diplomats over to China after they invoked immunity when local police arrested them in connection with shootings at a central Philippines restaurant Wednesday that left two diplomats dead.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Jose says international law and a 2009 consular treaty between China and the Philippines will guide the handling of the incident.

“The shooting was an extreme act of a relative of a staff of the consulate general," he said. "The Chinese Embassy in Manila and the Chinese Consulate General in Cebu have been extending their full cooperation with Philippine authorities regarding the investigation.”

Jose says the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations allows for the two suspects to seek immunity. The convention says “a diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state.” It also says a diplomat is “inviolable” and cannot be detained. But Jose says China requested that the couple remain in Philippine custody until a Chinese security team picks them up.

“The Chinese government would like to take custody of them and they will have to undergo the Chinese legal process,” he said.

Philippine police say the couple were attending a birthday party luncheon inside a private room of a popular Cebu City restaurant when wait staff reported hearing raised voices followed by gunshots.

Authorities citing surveillance video and witness accounts say the shots fired by the husband of the consulate employee killed Deputy Consul Sun Shan and financial officer Hui Li, and injured Consul General Song Ronghua, all of the Chinese consulate in Cebu.

Police say the couple did not answer any questions, pleading their right to immunity. Philippine authorities say they do not know what motivated the shootings. Jose says they continue to investigate the incident.

International law professor Bruce Rivera of the Manila-based San Beda College law school says even though the crime took place within Philippine jurisdiction, the Philippines opted to refer the diplomat-on-fellow-diplomat incident back to China.

“Because clearly it is something personal and it is to protect also perhaps secrets that may be forced to be divulged, to be opened in the public in the course of the investigation, so it is allowed under international law,” he said.

Calls and texts to the Chinese Embassy in Manila were not answered.