TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan released more than 5,000 prisoners at dawn Tuesday in a general amnesty to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China, the Justice Ministry said.
A new clemency law passed Friday paved the way for the Taipei government, which claims to represent China, to release from jail political prisoners and criminals, including murderers.
'Society should accept these prisoners with care, to assist them in their return to freedom,' said Justice Minister Lu You Wen.
The killers of controversial Chinese-American writer Henry Liu could walk free within months under the plan, though they were originally sentenced to life in prison.
Vice-Admiral Wang Hsi Ling, former director of the now-defunct Intelligence Bureau, Chen Chi Li, one-time leader of the Bamboo Union Gang and Wu Tun are currently serving reduced sentences of 15 years due to an earlier amnesty.
Under the new regulations they will have their sentences reduced by one-third, making them eligble for parole in one to two months, a Justice Ministry official said.
The three were convicted of murdering Liu in Daly City, Calif., in October, 1984.
Some legislators had pressed for the three to be immediately released under the clemency, claiming they were acting under orders from the government.
'Chen and Wu were trained by military intelligence in Taipei to carry out a mission,' said Nationalist Party legislator Jaw Shao Kang. 'They should be considered patriots.'
'Henry Liu was a triple agent, working for Beijing, Taipei and Washington,' Jaw said. 'He was revealing Taiwan agents to Beijing authorities.'
The Taiwan government, while denying wrongdoing, reached a $1.5 million dollar out-of-court settlement earlier this year with the author's widow Helen Liu.
Taipei has insisted since Wang's sentencing in 1985 that he acted on his own.
In addition to the inmates released Tuesday, some 10,000 other prisoners will have their sentences reduced by either one-half or one- third, the official said.
Former Presidential candidate Huang Hwa, sentenced in December to 10 years in prison for planning Taiwan independence, was not eligible under the order because he was a second-time offender, the official said.