HONG KONG - The Hong Kong government on Sunday (Oct 20) refuted claims that a resident wanted in Taiwan for murdering his pregnant girlfriend was coerced into surrendering, saying that he had made the offer on his own accord.
Chan Tong Kai, 20, killed his girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan in February last year but evaded arrest simply by returning to Hong Kong. The city does not have an extradition treaty with Taiwan.
While Hong Kong authorities arrested and convicted Chan for money laundering, he escaped murder charges because the incident was outside the city's jurisdiction.
This led to Chief Executive Carrie Lam's push for a contentious extradition Bill, which would have allowed for fugitives to be handed over to jurisdictions Hong Kong does not have permanent agreements with. The list of countries included mainland China, which led to concerns that it could be a sign of increasing erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong.
The proposed Bill also sparked off a series of protests that have roiled the city since June.
In a surprising turn of events, Chan wrote to Mrs Lam from prison ahead of his release on Wednesday, offering to surrender himself to Taiwanese authorities.
But this has led to allegations that Chan was coerced into it for political reasons.
"The decision of the Taiwan homicide case suspect Chan to surrender himself to Taiwan is purely out of his own free will. The allegations that Chan was manipulated to surrender or his decision was out of political manoeuvring are totally groundless," the government said in a lengthy statement on Sunday night.
It added that local authorities are facilitating the surrender in whatever means possible legally in the city, and had told Taiwanese authorities of Chan's surrender decision "without delay".
"The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government hopes that Taiwan will take positive steps to receive a self-surrendered person wanted by them in a pragmatic manner. We will offer all necessary assistance within the legal limits of Hong Kong," the statement said.