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Hong Kong government withdraws bill that sparked protests

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.

Secretary for Security John Lee told the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s legislature that the government suspended the bill because it had resulted in ‘‘conflicts in society.’’

Prodemocracy lawmakers immediately tried to question him, but he refused to respond.

There are no signs that the withdrawal of the bill will dampen the protests, now in their fifth month. The rallies have snowballed into the city’s biggest political crisis in decades, expanding to demands for universal suffrage and an investigation into allegations of police abuses.

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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, who completed a separate sentence for money laundering, told reporters after his release Wednesday that he wished to turn himself in to authorities in Taiwan, where he’s wanted for allegedly killing his pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing.

Taiwan announced Tuesday that it was willing to send a delegation to bring Chan back to the self-ruled island for trial, but Hong Kong rejected the offer, saying the suspect should be allowed to fly unaccompanied to turn himself in.

The controversy is rooted in the unwillingness of Hong Kong to recognize the legitimacy of the legal bodies in Taiwan, which communist leaders in Beijing consider a breakaway province.

associated press