Taiwan released more than 5,500 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 5,574 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, their sentences will be reduced by one-third, making them eligible 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, saying they were acting under orders from the government.