Former lawmakers and overseas lobbyists are targeted in latest 'long-arm' law enforcement
By Edward Li and Amelia Loi for RFA Cantonese, Chen Zifei for RFA Mandarin
July 3, 2023
Hong Kong police on Monday issued arrest warrants and offered bounties for eight activists and former lawmakers who have fled the city, saying they are wanted in connection with "serious crimes" under Hong Kong's national security law.
Police named former pro-democracy lawmakers Nathan Law, Ted Hui and Dennis Kwok, U.S.-based activist and political lobbyist Anna Kwok and legal scholar Kevin Yam among the wanted, and offered bounties of HK$1 million (US$127,700) for information that might lead to an arrest.
"We attach great importance to this case, and so we are offering rewards of 1 million Hong Kong dollars for each wanted person," Chief Superintendent Steve Li said.
He said many on the list had "advocated sanctions ... to destroy or intimidate Hong Kong officials" or advised foreign countries to attack Hong Kong's status as a financial center.
"We hope that the public will provide information on these people and their cases," he told a news conference in Hong Kong on Monday.
The move is the latest example of China’s ‘long-arm’ law enforcement that has included police surveillance among Chinese and their relatives overseas, including through unapproved “police service stations” in many countries.
U.K-based activists Finn Lau and Mung Siu-tat and U.S.-based businessman Elmer Yuen are also on the wanted list.
Those named face a slew of charges including "collusion with foreign powers" and "inciting subversion and secession" under a draconian law imposed on Hong Kong by the Communist Party in the wake of the 2019 protest movement that effectively bans public dissent and peaceful political opposition.
Law, 29, a former student leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement who at 23 was the youngest person to serve as a member of the city's Legislative Council following a landslide victory in the 2016 general election, is wanted on charges of "incitement to secession" and "collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security," national security police Superintendent Hung Ngan told reporters.
Law, who has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, said the news was "stressful," and that he would need to be more careful about where he chose to travel in future.
In comments posted to his Facebook page, he said the accusations against him were an abuse of national security terminology, a bid to suppress dissent, and denied receiving foreign funding of any kind.
"The right to work on any peaceful political initiative should be guaranteed in a civilized country," Law said. "The only conclusion is that the national security law is absolutely evil."
Chief Superintendent of Police (National Security) Li Kwai-wah speaks during a press conference to issue arrest warrants for eight activists and former lawmakers, in Hong Kong, July 3, 2023. Credit: Joyce Zhou/Reuters
Anna Kwok tweeted in response: "Just woke up to see I'm wanted with a $1M HKD bounty on my head. Our work at @hkdc_us continues, stronger and louder."
She called on U.S. President Joe Biden not to allow Hong Kong chief executive John Lee into the United States for an upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, or APEC, in San Francisco in November.
Australia-based Ted Hui, 41, whose assets were frozen by HSBC in January 2021 after he fled the city, is wanted on the same charges in connection with "repeatedly advocating for independence" for Hong Kong and the democratic island of Taiwan on social media.
The move came after an article in the ruling Chinese Communist Party-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper called on China to use the Interpol "red notice" system to try to apprehend people overseas for breaching the national security law, which applies to speech and acts all over the world without regard to a person's nationality.
Security chief Chris Tang, who was chief of police during the 2019 protest movement, also warned in an interview with the paper that anyone engaging in "soft confrontation," including online comments anywhere in the world, could be targeted by the authorities under the law.
"Endangering national security is a very serious offense," a Hong Kong government spokesman said on Monday. "The fugitives should not have any delusion that they could evade their legal liabilities by absconding from Hong Kong."
A police statement said anyone aiding, abetting or funding anyone accused under the law, including online, could also be targeted in future.
The arrest warrants were issued after protesters gathered in overseas cities at the weekend to mark the third anniversary of the law, implemented on July 1, 2020, and to mourn those who died during the 2019 protest movement against the erosion of Hong Kong's promised freedoms.
Memorial for those who died
Hong Kongers in Taipei held a memorial service for those who died in the protests, placing flowers before portraits of those who died.
A former protester who is now living in Taiwan said he only escaped the city because the national security law hadn't yet been implemented at the time of his arrest, meaning that he was granted bail – now very unusual under the law – and was able to flee.
"Once the national security law was passed ... there was no more justice – it's one-sidedly pro-government," the protester said. "It has destroyed fairness and the spirit of the rule of law."
Meanwhile, protesters gathered in London on Saturday to mark the death of Leung Kin-fai, who died after stabbing himself on July 1, 2021, after delivering a non-fatal stab wound to a police officer outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay.
"I don't want to talk about it, but I daren't forget it," one protester told Radio Free Asia at the scene, where many participants wore masks and hoods in an apparent bid to avoid reprisals against loved ones back home or attacks from supporters of Beijing on British soil.
A protester who gave only the nickname J told the crowd that the recent crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong had given the lie to Beijing's promises that the city would be allowed to retain its traditional freedoms under its "one country, two systems" framework following the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.
The handover anniversary was marked in Hong Kong by a celebratory mass of red flags throughout the downtown area and in busy thoroughfares.
Police have made more than 1,000 arrests under the law, with thousands more targeting former protesters under colonial-era public order and sedition laws.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.