Hong Kong police are offering $1 million (US$127,650) bounties for information on eight human rights dissidents currently residing in the United States, UK, and Australia.
On July 3, the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force issued arrest warrants for the eight individuals, alleging they had contravened the National Security Law.
The law was passed by Beijing’s rubber-stamp legislature in 2020 and received widespread criticism for eroding the long-running “one country, two systems” model that ensured British-style rule of law over Hong Kong.
The eight individuals were accused of “endangering” Hong Kong’s national security—more specifically, the allegations of “incitement to secession, subversion, incitement to subversion, and collusion with a foreign country.”
A Hong Kong police spokesperson claimed the National Security Law granted authorities the power to pursue individuals located outside of the city.
Meanwhile, Steve Li (Li Kwai-wah), chief superintendent of the HK Police, vowed authorities would “not stop chasing” the dissidents.
“They have encouraged sanctions … to destroy Hong Kong and to intimidate officials,” he told reporters in comments obtained by Reuters.
Those subject to the bounties include Australian citizen and lawyer Kevin Yam, former HK politicians Ted Hui and UK-based Nathan Law (Law Kwun-chung), as well as other prominent activists Elmer Yuen (Yuan Gong-yi), Dennis Kwok (Kwok Wing-hang), Mung Siu-tat, Lau Cho-dik, and Anna Kwok (Kwok Fung-yee).
In response, Nathan Law said he was also “wanted” for other alleged contraventions of the National Security Law but accused authorities—now under the sway of the Chinese Communist Party—of bending the rule of law to suit their own purposes.
“These charges are classic examples of abusing the concept of ‘national security,’ pushing its definition to an extreme to suppress dissident voices,” he wrote on Twitter.
“In civilized countries, the right to peaceful political advocacy should be protected. That’s what all the ‘wanted’ individuals do. I urge National Security Bureau to disclose any evidence of my alleged collusion with foreign forces,” he continued.
“I have not accepted any foreign govt funding, nor am I employed by any govt agencies. I don’t accept any commands or orders. If meeting foreign politicians, attending seminars, and hearings are ‘colluding with foreign forces,’ a lot of HK officials should be in legal trouble.”
Australian-based former HK politician, Ted Hui, said the latest bounty would have no impact on his situation or personal safety, given he was also subject to multiple warrants under the National Security Law.
“I think the bounty is ridiculous and hilarious,” he told The Epoch Times via email. “Free countries will not extradite us because of that. It only shows how powerless the CCP is in response to the HK diaspora who advocate for freedom and democracy.”
He said the latest move showed the CCP’s persecution of HK’s overseas diaspora was reaching new heights.
“It makes it clearer to Western democracies that China is going towards more extreme authoritarianism and will pose more of a threat to the world.”
A ‘Dangerous Precedent’: US State Department
Leaders in the respective Western nations were quick to condemn the actions of HK authorities.
“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,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement.
“We call on the Hong Kong government to immediately withdraw this bounty, respect other countries’ sovereignty, and stop the international assertion of the National Security Law imposed by Beijing,” he added.
“We will continue to oppose the [People’s Republic of China’s] transnational repression efforts, which undermine human rights.”
UK Calls Move Authoritarian, While Australia Says Hong Kong Needs Freedom
The UK’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called Beijing’s latest move “authoritarian.”
“The decision to issue arrest warrants for eight activists, some of whom are in the UK, is a further example of the authoritarian reach of China’s extraterritorial law,” he wrote on Twitter.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, said on Tuesday that Australia was deeply concerned about Hong Kong’s National Security Law and about their broad application.
“What I would say in relation to the events overnight, and I want to be very clear, Australia has a view about freedom of expression,” she said. “We have a view about people’s right to express their political views peacefully, and people in Australia who do so will be supported.”
Wong also took to social media to call on Beijing to uphold the rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.
“We urge the Chinese government to uphold the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Basic Law and Sino-British Joint Declaration,” she wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) said it was a “dangerous escalation in Beijing’s war on global dissent.”
“These comments will exacerbate community tensions and are likely to precipitate unacceptable infringements of sovereignty,” the parliamentary group wrote on Twitter.
IPAC further urged Western governments to pledge strong substantive actions against any potential overreach by Beijing to apprehend dissidents living in their countries.
In this respect, Beijing does have form, with multiple accounts from overseas communities saying they face harassment and even kidnappings from overseas CCP-linked operatives to bring them back to China.