In this August 2020 photograph, pro-democracy lawmakers Ted Hui (Centre L) and Lam Cheuk-ting (C) speak to the press outside the West Kowloon Magistrates Court after being granted bail following their arrest the day before in a police operation focused on last year’s huge protests.
Anthony Wallace | Afp | Getty Images
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee vowed Tuesday to pursue eight pro-democracy activists “for life” after they were targeted with arrest warrants for alleged national security offences.
“Endangering national security is a serious crime and the [Hong Kong] government will enforce the law strictly,” Lee said in Cantonese at a press conference in Hong Kong, according to a CNBC translation.
“The government will use all legal means, and to the best of our ability, hold these criminals endangering national security accountable,” he added. “Even if these fugitives go to the ends of the Earth, the authorities will pursue these criminals for life.”
Lee said surrender is the only solution for them. “Otherwise, they will be pursued for life, worrying every day about being arrested and living in fear,” he added.
On Monday, Hong Kong police accused the eight overseas activists of offences under the national security law, including foreign collusion, subversion and incitement to succession. The controversial law was resisted for several years before it was imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 after protracted anti-China protests the year before.
Beijing said at the time that the legislation was aimed at prohibiting secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference. Critics believe the security law undermines the autonomy promised to Hong Kong for 50 years after it was handed over from the U.K. to China on July 1, 1997.
Police have also offered a reward of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127, 715) for information leading to the arrest of each activist and warned the public it’s illegal to offer them any form of financial assistance.
The U.S. on Monday condemned the move, saying “the extraterritorial application of the Beijing-imposed National Security Law is a dangerous precedent that threatens the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people all over the world.”
The State Department also called on the Hong Kong government to withdraw the “bounty” and stop the international assertion of the national security law.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed “deep concern” while British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the U.K. government “will not tolerate any attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals in the UK and overseas.”
“The U.K. will always defend the universal right to freedom of expression and stand up for those who are targeted,” he said in a statement.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning responded Tuesday: “We express our strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to certain countries’ blatant denigration of the Hong Kong National Security Law and interference in the Hong Kong SAR’s rule of law.”
“I would like to reiterate that Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and no external forces are allowed to intervene. Relevant countries should respect China’s sovereignty and Hong Kong’s rule of law, stop supporting anti-China disruptors in Hong Kong, and stop shielding criminals,” Mao said at a regular press conference in Beijing, according to a translation provided by Reuters.
The accused are activists Nathan Law, Anna Kwok and Finn Lau, unionist Mung Siu-tat, online commentator Yuan Gong-yi, former legislators Dennis Kwok and Ted Hui as well as lawyer and legal scholar Kevin Yam, who is an Australian citizen. Many Hong Kong activists left the city after it implemented the national security law and sought asylum in countries like the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
The Hong Kong government’s charges also accuse the activists of “instigating” foreign powers to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.
“I have not accepted any foreign govt funding, nor am I employed by any govt agencies. I don’t accept any commands or orders,” Law said on Twitter. “If meeting foreign politicians, attending seminars & hearings are ‘colluding with foreign forces,’ a lot of HK officials should be in legal trouble.”
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