Chan Tong-kai, the murder suspect wanted by Taiwan whose case sparked the ongoing political crisis, has been released from prison, having promised to turn himself in to authorities in Taipei.
Chan was released from Pik Uk prison around 9am on Wednesday, after serving an 18-month term for money laundering.
He has allegedly confessed to killing his pregnant girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing in Taipei last year. He fled back to Hong Kong, which has no extradition agreement with Taiwan, but was jailed in April for stealing her money and valuables. He was released early because of time already served and good behaviour.
Speaking to a crowd of journalists outside the prison, Chan bowed and repeatedly apologised to Poon’s family.
“I understand I’ve made an irreversible mistake and brought enormous pain to Hiu Wing’s family. I’ve been feeling guilty all along," he said.
"I’m willing to surrender myself to Taiwan and serve my sentence there for my mistake. I hope Hiu-wing’s family will be relieved and Hiu-wing can rest in peace.”
“I thank my parents and my family for supporting and caring for me though I made a huge mistake. I dare not say I can repay them, but I’ll definitely remember what they did for me. Lastly, to Hong Kong people and society… sorry. I hope I’ll be forgiven and given a chance to start afresh and contribute to society,” he said.
Chan did not respond when asked if he’s surrendering himself voluntarily and whether he felt he is being used as a political pawn and left by a car accompanied by Anglican pastor Peter Koon.
The SAR government had earlier refused a request from Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council for permission for its staff to fly to here to escort Chan back to Taipei.
It called the request "totally unacceptable", saying Taiwan has no law enforcement power in Hong Kong.
The government statement said Taiwan could arrest Chan when he arrived – if it cancelled its earlier ban on him travelling to the island.
Taiwan had said earlier it would not take him in unless Hong Kong offers full judicial cooperation in the case – including providing the island with all relevant evidence.
Chan's case was used by the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, as the justification for the now-abandoned extradition bill. Public opposition to the plan led to the ongoing protests, which have continued and widened into broader calls for democracy and reform.