Hong Kong police on Monday charged eight self-exiled pro-democracy activists with violating the territory’s harsh National Security Law and offered rewards of HK$1 million ($127,600) each for information leading to their arrests.
The rewards are the first for suspects accused of violating legislation imposed by Beijing since it took effect in June 2020. It bans subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism.
The eight activists are former pro-democracy lawmakers Nathan Law, Ted Hui and Dennis Kwok, lawyer Kevin Yam, trade unionist Mung Siu-tat and activists Finn Lau, Anna Kwok and Elmer Yuen, police announced at a news conference.
They currently live in the US, Great Britain, Canada and Australia after some were previously charged with various other crimes.
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Steven Li, chief superintendent of the police’s National Security Department, said arrest warrants had been issued for the eight under the National Security Law. He acknowledged that the police will not be able to arrest them if they remain abroad, but urged them to return to Hong Kong and turn themselves in for reduced sentences.
Li said the new charges and rewards are not meant to spread fear, but simply “enforce the law.”
He cited articles in the security law that state that the police have extraterritorial jurisdiction and said they would pursue people abroad who endangered Hong Kong’s national security.
The press conference came less than two weeks after the state-run Ta Kung Pao newspaper published an editorial stating that the National Security Law applies to people outside of Hong Kong and that China, as a member of Interpol , could request assistance from other countries in arresting fugitives.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese city, has come under increasing scrutiny from Beijing following months of political strife in 2019. Authorities have cracked down on dissent with more than 260 people, including many pro-government figures. democracy, 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.
Under the warrants, lawyer Yam, former lawmaker Dennis Kwok, and activists Yuen, Lau, and Anna Kwok are charged with foreign collusion for allegedly calling for sanctions against Hong Kong officials.
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Former lawmaker Hui is charged with inciting secession, subversion and foreign collusion for allegedly calling for Hong Kong and Taiwan independence on social media, as well as sanctions against city officials.
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Law, who currently lives in Britain, is also charged with foreign collusion and secession incitement 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 interviews. with the media.
Unionist Mung is accused of inciting secession for allegedly advocating Hong Kong’s separation from the mainland.
Law said the new charges are an attempt to stifle dissenting voices.
“I ask Hong Kongers not to cooperate with any persecution or related reward actions. We must not limit ourselves, self-censor, intimidate ourselves or live in fear,” he tweeted.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK “will not tolerate any attempt by China to intimidate and silence people in the UK and abroad.”
“We call on Beijing to remove the National Security Law and for the Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting those who defend freedom and democracy,” Cleverly said in a statement.
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