Hong Kong police offer rewards for arrests of overseas pro-democracy activists

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law is currently living in Britain (Markus Schreiber/AP)
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law is currently living in Britain (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Hong Kong police have accused eight self-exiled pro-democracy activists of violating the territory’s harsh National Security Law and offered rewards of one million Hong Kong dollars (£100,500) each for information leading to their arrests.

The rewards are the first for suspects accused of violating the Beijing-imposed legislation since it took effect in June 2020. It outlaws subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism.

The eight activists are former pro-democracy politicians Nathan Law, Ted Hui and Dennis Kwok, lawyer Kevin Yam, unionist Mung Siu-tat and activists Finn Lau, Anna Kwok and Elmer Yuen, police announced at a news conference.

They are currently living in the US, Britain, Canada and Australia after some were earlier accused of various other offenses.

Hong Kong National Security Law
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law is currently living in Britain (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Steven Li, chief superintendent of the police’s National Security Department, said arrest warrants have been issued for the eight under the National Security Law.

He acknowledged that police will not be able to arrest them if they remain overseas but urged them to return to Hong Kong and surrender for a reduction in their sentences.

Mr Li said the new charges and rewards are not intended to spread fear but are merely “enforcing the law”.

He cited articles of the security law which state that police have extraterritorial jurisdiction, and said they will pursue people overseas who endanger Hong Kong’s national security.

The news conference came less than two weeks after the state-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper issued an editorial stating that the National Security Law applies to people outside Hong Kong, and that China, as a member of Interpol, can request assistance from other countries in arresting fugitives.

Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese city, has come under increasingly tight scrutiny by Beijing following months of political strife in 2019. Authorities have cracked down on dissent, with more than 260 people, including many pro-democracy figures, arrested under the National Security Law.

Hong Kong’s political system has also undergone a major overhaul to ensure that only “patriots” loyal to Beijing can hold office.

The police force said it has evidence that the eight violated the National Security Law.

According to the warrants, lawyer Mr Yam, former politician Mr Kwok and activists Mr Yuen, Mr Lau and Ms Kwok are accused of foreign collusion for allegedly calling for sanctions against Hong Kong officials.

Former politician Mr Hui is accused of inciting secession, subversion and foreign collusion for allegedly calling for Hong Kong and Taiwan’s independence on social media, as well as for sanctions against city officials.

Mr Law, who is currently living in Britain, is also accused of foreign collusion and inciting secession for allegedly calling for sanctions and the city’s separation from China in meetings with foreign officials and in open letters, petitions, social media posts and media interviews.

Unionist Mr Mung is accused of inciting secession for allegedly advocating Hong Kong’s separation from the mainland.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch condemned the targeting of overseas pro-democracy activists.

“These arrest warrants are not an indictment of these activists, but of Hong Kong’s once well-regarded law enforcement and judiciary,” said Sophie Richardson, the group’s China director.

“Democracies should not only flatly reject the warrants, which authorities want upheld internationally, but they should also increase protections to those threatened by Beijing, consider imposing new sanctions, and face the reality that no mainland or Hong Kong authority will respect international legal obligations.”