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Hong Kong withdraws extradition bill that sparked months of violent protests

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HONG KONG – Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday withdrew an unpopular extradition bill that sparked months of chaotic protests that have since morphed into a campaign for greater democratic change.

"As a result of the divided views of the public regarding the (extradition) bill, there have been conflicts in the society," Secretary for Security John Lee told the city's legislature.

Lee said the administration decided to suspend the amendment exercise after studying the matter.

“For this purpose I wrote to the president of Legco (Legislative Council) to withdraw the notice to resume the second reading of the bill,” Lee said. “And as a result, the Legislative Council meeting stopped handling the bill. Thereafter, the administration stated many times that the revision has come to a halt. For the purpose of spelling out clearly the position of the special administrative region government, in the accordance of Rule 64(2), I formally announce the withdrawal of the bill.”

Pro-democracy lawmakers immediately tried to question him but he refused to respond and the assembly's president said the rules did not allow for debate.

The long-expected scrapping of the bill was overshadowed by the drama surrounding the release from a Hong Kong prison of the murder suspect at the heart of the extradition case controversy.

Chan Tong-kai told reporters after leaving prison that he was willing to turn himself into authorities in Taiwan, where he is wanted for the killing of his girlfriend. He was released after serving a separate sentence for money laundering offenses.

Chan could not be sent to Taiwan because there's no extradition agreement in place.

Hong Kong's leader had amendments in a bid to eliminate the loophole, but it sparked widespread protests over concerns it put residents at risk of being sent into mainland China's murky judicial system.