A murder suspect whose case indirectly led to Hong Kong’s ongoing protests was freed from prison on Wednesday and told reporters he was willing to surrender to authorities in Taiwan, where he is wanted for the killing of his girlfriend.
Chan Tong-kai was released after serving a separate sentence for money laundering offences.
He could not be sent to Taiwan because the semi-autonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong has no extradition agreement with self-ruled Taiwan.
“I am willing, for my impulsive actions and things I did wrong, to surrender myself, to return to Taiwan to plead guilty and stand trial,” he said.
He bowed deeply to the media scrum waiting outside the prison, thanked his parents for their support, apologized to the victim’s family and the people of Hong Kong, then got into a waiting van that drove away.
Reporters gave chase, broadcasting live as the van made its way to an upscale gated apartment complex that they could not enter.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam had offered extradition legislation earlier this year to close what she called a “loophole” but the bill sparked widespread protests over concerns it put residents at risk of being sent into mainland China’s murky judicial system.
In the days leading up to his release, Hong Kong and Taiwan feuded over who had jurisdiction over his case.
Chan had offered to voluntarily return to Taiwan, but officials there objected to allowing him the freedom to travel and said he wouldn’t be allowed to land. Taiwan instead offered to send a team to escort him back, but Hong Kong’s government refused, saying Taiwanese officers could not enforce the law in Hong Kong.