Murder suspect whose case was catalyst for Hong Kong protests released
Correctional officers keep watch outside Pik Uk Prison in Hong Kong on October 23, 2019, as Chan Tong-kai, 20, wanted in Taiwan for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend during a holiday the two Hong Kongers took there in 2018, is due to leave the prison after serving a short jail sentence for stealing his girlfriend's possessions. Chan's case, where he fled back to Hong Kong where Taiwanese police were unable to apprehend him because there is no extradition agreement between the two territories, triggered an ill-fated proposal by Hong Kong's pro-Beijing government to ram through a sweeping extradition bill, which would have allowed the city to extradite suspects to any territory including the authoritarian mainland.
Philip FONG / AFP
Murder suspect whose case was catalyst for Hong Kong protests released
(Agence France-Presse) - October 23, 2019 - 9:40pm

HONG KONG, China — A murder suspect whose proposed deportation to Taiwan was a catalyst for massive anti-government protests in Hong Kong was released from prison Wednesday, but despite saying he wants to face justice will remain in the city for now.

Months of increasingly violent pro-democracy demonstrations in the financial hub were sparked by protests against an extradition law which would have allowed suspects to be extradited to various destinations — including authoritarian mainland China. 

The proposed law — which was formally scrapped Wednesday — was prompted by the case of Hong Konger Chan Tong-kai, 20, who is wanted in Taiwan for the 2018 murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing.

He was released from a maximum security prison Wednesday after spending 18 months in custody after convictions on money laundering charges related to cash and valuables he took from his girlfriend before fleeing to Hong Kong.

Chan apologized Wednesday for the great "pain and agony" he had caused Poon's family, saying he hoped his decision to surrender would offer them some relief.

"I am willing to surrender myself... and go back to Taiwan to face the trial and serve the sentence," he said.

He also apologized for being a catalyst for the huge protests that have wracked Hong Kong for months.

"As for the society and Hong Kongers, I could only (say) I'm sorry," he said, adding that he hoped to be forgiven and start life afresh.

Chan, however, will remain a free man in Hong Kong unless the territory gets past a diplomatic impasse with Taiwan.

"Our original plan was that I would accompany him to Taiwan," said Reverend Peter Koon, who frequently visited Chan in prison, adding that he would have been sent directly from custody to the city's airport.

The plan was aborted, however, when Taiwanese authorities said he would not be allowed to enter the self-ruled island as an ordinary visitor.

Taipei had asked to be able to send personnel to Hong Kong to collect Chan — and some relevant evidence — but this was rejected by Hong Kong authorities who called the request disrespectful and "totally unacceptable".

Both sides have accused each other of placing politics above justice.

The root of the issue is that despite Hong Kong having its own legal system, Beijing does not want the territory to have any official bilateral relationship with Taiwan — which it regards as a renegade province to be retaken by force if necessary.

Hong Kong security chief John Lee said Wednesday that having completed his sentence, Chan was now a "free man". 

"The government has no right to impose any compulsory measures on him," said Lee, who urged Taiwan not to set up hurdles stopping Chan from turning himself in.

"If justice was not served, Taiwan needs to shoulder all responsibility," he said.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Office (MAC) said Hong Kong's should bear all the consequences for rejecting their request, but later issued a statement saying the country's Criminal Investigation Bureau had "set up a channel" for Chan to contact them.

"If Chan wants to come to Taiwan to face trial, he can use the channel for relevant arrangements," the MAC said.

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