Hong Kong chief pledges to prosecute eight overseas activists for all times

In this August 2020 photo, pro-democracy MPs Ted Hui (centre left) and Lam Cheuk-ting (centre) address the press outside West Kowloon Magistrates Court after being granted bail following their arrest during a police operation the day before became the major protests of last year.

Anthony Wallace | Afp | Getty Images

Hong Kong leader John Lee on Tuesday vowed to prosecute eight pro-democracy activists “for life” after they were issued arrest warrants for alleged national security violations.

“Endangering national security is a serious crime and this [Hong Kong] “The government will strictly enforce the law,” Lee said at a news conference in Hong Kong, according to a CNBC translation in Cantonese.

“The government will use all legal means and will do its best to hold these criminals who endanger national security accountable,” he added. “Even if these refugees go to the ends of the world, the authorities will pursue these criminals for life.”

Lee said surrender was the only solution for them. “Otherwise they will be persecuted for life, worry every day about being arrested and live in fear,” he added.

On Monday, Hong Kong police charged the eight foreign activists with violations of the national security law, including foreign collusion, subversion and incitement to the succession. The controversial law faced opposition for several years before being imposed in Hong Kong in 2020 after protracted anti-China protests the year before.

Beijing said at the time that the legislation aimed to ban secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and foreign interference. Critics believe the security law undermines the autonomy Hong Kong promised for 50 years after Britain handed over to China on July 1, 1997.

Police have also offered a HK$1 million (US$127,715) reward. to solicit information that led to the arrest of each activist and warned the public that it was illegal to offer them any form of financial support.

Condemnation by the US and UK

The US condemned the move on Monday, saying, “The extraterritorial application of the Beijing-imposed National Security Law sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people around the world.”

The Foreign Ministry also called on the Hong Kong government to withdraw the “bounty” and halt international enforcement of the national security law.

Australian Foreign Secretary Penny Wong expressed “deep concern” while British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK government would “not tolerate attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals in the UK and abroad”.

“The UK will always defend the universal right to freedom of expression and stand up for those who are targeted,” he said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning responded Tuesday: “We express our deep dissatisfaction and our strong opposition to the blatant denigration of Hong Kong’s National Security Law and the interference by certain countries with the rule of law in Hong Kong SAR.”

“I would like to reiterate that Hong Kong affairs are strictly China’s internal affairs and no external forces should intervene. Affected countries should respect China’s sovereignty and Hong Kong’s rule of law, stop supporting anti-Chinese disruptors in Hong Kong and stop shielding.” Mao said at a regular news conference in Beijing, according to a translation by Reuters.

The defendants are activists Nathan Law, Anna Kwok and Finn Lau, trade unionist Mung Siu-tat, online commentator Yuan Gong-yi, former MPs Dennis Kwok and Ted Hui, and lawyer and legal scholar Kevin Yam. who is an Australian citizen. Many Hong Kong activists fled the city after it implemented the national security law, seeking asylum in countries including the US, UK and Australia.

The Hong Kong government’s charges also accuse the activists of “inciting” foreign powers to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.

“I have not accepted foreign government funds, nor am I employed by any government agency. I don’t take orders or commands,” Law said on Twitter. “If meetings with foreign politicians, attendance at seminars and hearings constitute ‘collusion with foreign forces,’ many HK officials are likely to be in legal trouble.”

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