Murder Suspect in Case Behind Hong Kong Protests to Surrender, Paper Says

Dominic Lau and Iain Marlow

(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 Friday. 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’ve allowed one-time extradition deals with mainland China, as well Taiwan. The move sparked historic protests that expanded into a wider pro-democracy movement still roiling the city, weeks after Lam scrapped the bill.

Should Chan turn himself in without legislative action, it would bolster the arguments of 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 Hong, local authorities were only able to prosecute him for the lesser charge for money laundering, stemming from his use of 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.

--With assistance from Adela Lin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dominic Lau in Hong Kong at dlau92@bloomberg.net;Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net

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