International outrage as Australia, UK, US condemn Hong Kong’s bounty for exiled activists


Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have expressed strong disapproval of the Hong Kong police’s recent issuance of arrest warrants and bounties for eight exiled pro-democracy activists. The Hong Kong police announced on Monday evening a reward of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,600) for any information leading to the capture of these individuals who are currently residing overseas.

The US State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, stated, “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 Hong Kong police have accused the eight exiled activists, including three former legislators, of “collusion with foreign forces” under the National Security Law imposed by Beijing in 2020. The police allege that these individuals have committed serious crimes endangering national security, advocated sanctions, undermined Hong Kong, intimidated Hong Kong officials, and plotted to undermine Hong Kong’s financial status.

Among the exiled activists living in the UK is Nathan Law, the youngest person ever elected to Hong Kong’s legislature. Law expressed his need to be “more careful” as a result of the arrest warrants. Critics of Beijing have already expressed alarm over the presence of suspected Chinese police stations operating in democratic countries in Europe and North America. China has claimed that these stations serve as “service centers” for Chinese citizens requiring administrative assistance, such as passport renewal.

UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly described the arrest warrants as a “further example of the authoritarian reach of China’s extraterritorial law.” The National Security Law criminalizes activities deemed to be secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces. It was introduced in response to the mass protests in support of democracy that swept Hong Kong in 2019, some of which turned violent. Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, one of the highest-profile targets of the law, was arrested shortly after its introduction and was sentenced to five years in prison in December 2022 for fraud related to an office lease. Lai is now set to face trial on security law charges in September, following a delay caused by the presence of a UK-based lawyer on his defense team. His popular publication, Apple Daily, published its final edition in June 2021.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, expressed deep disappointment at the recent arrest warrants, particularly since former legislator Ted Hui and lawyer Kevin Yam, who is an Australian citizen, reside in Australia. Minister Wong stated, “We have consistently voiced concerns about the broad application of the National Security Law to arrest or pressure pro-democracy figures and civil society.” Human Rights Watch also called for the charges and bounties to be dropped immediately. Maya Wang, HRW’s associate Asia director, criticized the Hong Kong government’s increasing persecution of peaceful dissent both within Hong Kong and abroad. Wang stated, “Offering a cross-border bounty is a feeble attempt to intimidate activists and elected representatives outside Hong Kong who speak up for people’s rights against Beijing’s growing repression.”

Reacting to the criticism, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee, dismissed the concerns and told reporters that the eight exiled activists would be “pursued for life.” He urged them to surrender themselves as soon as possible, as reported by Reuters.

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