Hong Kong protests: Suitcase murder suspect to be released, says he will return to Taiwan

Chan Tong-kai to be released Oct. 23, willing to face justice in Taiwan

Chan (left) who confessed to murdering Poon (right) (Photo from social media)

Chan (left) who confessed to murdering Poon (right) (Photo from social media)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As social unrest continues in Hong Kong, the suspect in the murder case that initially prompted the Hong Kong government to draft the controversial extradition bill is set to be released from prison soon.

The complicated legal situation revolving around Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳), who has confessed to the murder of his girlfriend Poon Hui-wing (潘曉穎) during a trip to Taiwan in 2018, has contributed to social unrest in Hong Kong this year. Now, however, reports from Hong Kong suggest that Chan, who Hong Kong authorities allege can not be tried for the murder in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), is ready to return to Taiwan and willingly surrender himself to the authorities there.

Chan, who has been held in a Hong Kong jail since early 2018 on the minor charges of money laundering, property theft and tampering with evidence, is reportedly set to be released from jail on Oct. 23. Surprisingly, Chan has been persuaded by a priest to return to Taiwan, where he has an outstanding arrest warrant, to face the consequences of his actions, reports Liberty Times.

Chan has confessed to the murder of Poon, but a lack of physical evidence in Hong Kong and the absence of an extradition treaty between the city and Taiwan have kept Hong Kong authorities from filing murder charges against him. In April 2019, Chas was sentenced to 29 months in prison for charges related to possession of the victim’s property and money laundering for using her ATM card.

Left: Chan arrested in Hong Kong (HK police photo), Right: Chan and Poon in Taiwan (Social media photo)

Now, it appears that he may be released over a year early under the assumption that he will willingly return to Taiwan. As Chan prepares to be released from prison, he has expressed remorse and a willingness to face justice in the country where he committed his crime.

Liberty Times reports that Chan is willing to bear the guilt of his actions but does not want to be sentenced to death. Taiwanese lawyers have also reportedly visited Chan in Hong Kong to discuss the case with the young man. In response to news of Chan's possible early release, Taiwan's Ministry of Justice on Thursday (Oct. 17) issued a statement urging Hong Kong authorities to prolong his detention and move forward with a murder trial within the SAR.

Chan has reportedly expressed his sincerest apologies to the family of his former girlfriend and has also apologized for the social turmoil that has erupted in Hong Kong as a result of his actions. By surrendering himself to Taiwanese authorities, he hopes that the storm clouds over Hong Kong will calm as soon as possible.

Chan’s family, although worried that their son may receive the death penalty in Taiwan, has also been persuaded by priests and lawyers to support their son’s decision. Chan plans to spend several days with his family after his release before departing to Taiwan at an as-yet undecided date.

If Chan avoids the death penalty under the charges the Shilin prosecutors hope to convict him of, he is likely to face a prison sentence of approximately 37 years, according to a previous report.

Chan's case resulted in the Hong Kong Security Bureau proposing the now-infamous Legislative Council bill that sparked the anti-extradition protests in March of 2019. Commentators on the social unrest continue to reference the Chan-Poon case as justification for the Hong Kong government’s attempt to force through the act, which protesters warned would result in the judicial overreach of Beijing in Hong Kong and unjust persecution of political dissidents.

Protesters in Hong Kong carrying "anti-extradition" (反送中) posters (Associated Press photo)