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Murder suspect walks free as Hong Kong, Taiwan authorities clash

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HONG KONG: A murder suspect whose case led to mass street protests in Hong Kong walked free from jail on Wednesday (Oct 23) as the city's government squabbled with Taiwan, where he is accused of murdering his girlfriend, over how to handle a promised voluntary surrender.

Chan Tong-kai, a Hong Kong citizen, was accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan last year before fleeing back to the Chinese-ruled financial hub.

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Chan, wearing a navy blue shirt and red backpack, bowed and apologised to the family of his ex-girlfriend and the public as he left the prison in Hong Kong's rural Sai Kung district after serving 29 months for money laundering.

He said he had made an "unforgivable mistake".

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Chan Tong-kai walks out of the Pik Uk Prison in Hong Kong, Oct 23, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)lip FONG

Chan also said he would turn himself in to Taiwan authorities but declined to say when.

While Chan has offered to surrender himself voluntarily, Hong Kong and Taiwan have clashed over the next steps.

Speaking hours after Chan walked free from jail, Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee said Taiwan authorities were obstructing the case for political reasons.

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam held up Chan's case as an example of why an extradition Bill was needed. Such a Bill would have allowed suspects to be sent from Hong Kong to greater China, including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau.

The former British colony has been reeling from five months of unrest originally triggered by the proposed extradition Bill but which has now evolved into a movement.

The government has announced it will withdraw the Bill but the protests have not stopped. The city's legislature is due to withdraw it formally on Wednesday.

Hong Kong authorities said on Wednesday Chan should be free to go to Taiwan and surrender himself.

However, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement it was "unbelievable" that Chan could be expected to take a flight to Taiwan by himself, "completely ignoring the safety of passengers on the same flights in order to serve the political arrangement of a 'surrender'".

It said Taiwan had repeatedly asked for legal cooperation.

"We are solemnly telling the Hong Kong government that you have to take full responsibility for all bitter consequences," the council statement said.

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