HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - The suspect in a Taiwan murder case that sparked Hong Kong's biggest political crisis in decades is willing to turn himself in to Taiwanese authorities, a Hong Kong newspaper reported.
Chan Tong Kai, a Hong Kong man who has been accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend during a Valentine's Day trip to Taiwan, is ready to return to the island and surrender after his release from jail on a related money-laundering charge, the Sing Tao Daily reported on Friday (Oct 18). Chan made the decision after consulting with a pastor, the paper said, citing a person it didn't identify.
"The pastor eventually convinced him to agree in principle to surrender himself in Taiwan, although Chan hoped that he would not be sentenced to death by Taiwan authorities," the newspaper said. Chan is due to be released next week.
Hong Kong's inability to prosecute Chan for a murder committed in Taiwan prompted Chief Executive Carrie Lam to introduce sweeping legislation earlier this year that would have allowed one-time extradition deals with mainland China, as well as Taiwan.
The move sparked historic protests that expanded into a wider pro-democracy movement still roiling the city, weeks after Mrs Lam scrapped the Bill.
Should Chan turn himself in without legislative action, it would bolster the arguments of Mrs Lam's critics who said the case could be resolved without such far-reaching legislation. The legislation fanned fears that Beijing was trying to erode the judicial autonomy promised to the former British colony before its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
While Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen - a prominent critic of Beijing - refused to cooperate with the now-defunct extradition Bill, law enforcement authorities on the island urged Hong Kong on Thursday to further detain Chan. The Taiwanese Justice Ministry said in a statement that it was willing to provide evidence to assist in the case.
The 19-year-old victim, Poon Hiu Wing, was beaten, strangled, stuffed in a suitcase and ultimately discarded near a train station. Although Chan admitted to the crime after returning to Hong Kong, local authorities were only able to prosecute him for the lesser charge for money laundering, stemming from his use of Ms Poon's credit card.
Chan felt guilty about the social turmoil triggered by his actions and was ready to face justice, the Sing Tao Daily report said. He will spend some time with his family after being freed and then travel to Taiwan, although the report said Chan's plans would depend on how Taiwanese authorities handle his case.