Hong Kong’s Bounty on Democracy Activists Triggers International Dispute.
China has rebuked the UK for harbouring what it describes as ‘fugitives,’ following criticism from the British foreign secretary about Hong Kong’s recent offer of bounties amounting to HK$1m each for the apprehension of eight overseas-based democracy advocates. Hong Kong’s leader has warned these individuals they will be ‘pursued for life.’
According to the Guardian, China’s embassy in London released a statement late on Monday, alleging that UK politicians were blatantly offering shelter to fugitives, a move it labelled as crude interference in both Hong Kong’s judicial affairs and China’s domestic matters.
In the face of British political protection of these alleged Hong Kong disruptors, the embassy urged the UK to refrain from putting China’s sovereignty and security at risk. The next day, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee, advised the activists that their only option to evade a lifetime of pursuit was to turn themselves in.
Lee indicated that the authorities would keep tabs on the activists’ conduct while abroad but did not specify how they planned to do this, emphasizing that inaction was not an option.
In reaction to Hong Kong’s claims against the activists, some of whom are living in the UK, the UK foreign secretary James Cleverly stated that London would not allow China to silence and intimidate individuals residing in the UK and other foreign countries.
The national security law, implemented in Hong Kong three years ago, bestows authorities with vast powers to pursue charges for any acts or remarks deemed criminal worldwide. It is largely regarded as a tool for suppression endorsed by Beijing and was enacted following a period of pro-democracy demonstrations in the city. More than 100,000 residents of Hong Kong have relocated to the UK since the enactment of this law, thanks to a specific visa route provided by the British government. However, some feel the UK could be doing more to secure their safety, despite the suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
On Monday, several Hong Kong groups released an open letter claiming the UK’s BN(O) Welcome Programme, a fund designed to aid community organisations in accommodating new arrivals, was unintentionally channeling money towards groups associated with the Chinese Communist Party. The Hong Kong police accused the eight activists of offences like foreign collusion and secession incitement on Monday, offering a reward of HK$1m (£100,700) for each individual’s arrest-related information.
John Lee, appointed as Hong Kong’s chief executive last year with Beijing’s approval, previously managed the government’s strict response to the 2019 pro-democracy protests and the first year of the national security crackdown.
Among those targeted are Kevin Yam, an Australian citizen and lawyer, and Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist who has been granted asylum in the UK. Yam, a critic of the crackdown on dissent and the erosion of judicial independence in Hong Kong, insists he won’t be silenced. Law, on the other hand, acknowledges that he will need to be more cautious following the bounty’s announcement.
The US State Department and the Australian Government have voiced their concerns about the arrest warrants, with the former stating that they set a “dangerous precedent” and the latter expressing its “deep disappointment.”
The list of those under threat of arrest also includes Anna Kwok, Finn Lau, Dennis Kwok, Ted Hui, Mung Siu-tat, and Gong-yi – notable figures in pro-democracy activism, former lawmakers, and legal scholars who have been accused of violating the national security law while in exile.
Topics: Hong Kong Democracy Activists Bounty, UK’s Response to China’s Accusations, International Repercussions of Hong Kong’s Bounty Scheme, Role of National Security Law in Activists Hunt, Global Response to Hong Kong’s Activists Bounty