Hong Kong police offer £100k reward for information about five pro-democracy activists abroad

UK foreign secretary David Cameron says bounties were a ‘threat to our democracy and fundamental human rights’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 15 December 2023 10:43 GMT
Hong Kong Pro-democracy Activists Found Guilty By Court

The police in Hong Kong have offered rewards of HK$1m (£100,400) for information leading to the arrest of five pro-democracy activists living abroad for allegedly violating the national security law.

The bounties were imposed on former UK consulate employee, Simon Cheng, along with Johnny Fok and Tony Choi, who host a YouTube channel focusing on current affairs.

Activists Hui Wing-ting and Joey Siu were also named by the police, who refused to reveal their whereabouts but social media profiles indicate that they had moved to the US and the UK.

The activists have been added to the wanted list for committing offenses, including colluding with foreign forces and incitement to secession, under the Beijing-imposed security law, said Steve Li, chief superintendent of the police national security department.

"They all betrayed their own country and betrayed Hong Kong," he said at a news conference. "After they fled overseas, they continued to engage in activities endangering national security."

Critics have accused the Hong Kong administration of weaponising the national security law to throttle dissent by arresting activists following the 2019 democracy protests.

Thursday's reward announcement comes days after one of Hong Kong's most prominent activists, Agnes Chow, confirmed that she had moved to Canada and will not return to the city to meet her bail conditions.

Earlier in July, the Hong Kong police warned eight other activists living in the US, Australia and the UK, that they would be pursued for life with bounties on them.

Mr Li said authorities have received about 500 pieces of information about the eight since the bounties were announced. However, no arrests have been made so far.

Mr Cheng, who was detained for two weeks during his trip to the mainland in August 2019, said: "Being hunted by China (Hong Kong)'s secret police, under a one-million-dollar bounty, is a lifelong honour."

"If the government deems the quest for democracy and freedom a crime, we embrace the charges to reveal the genuine face of social justice, unyielding to authority," he added.

UK foreign secretary David Cameron in a statement said the bounties were a "threat to our democracy and fundamental human rights".

Lord Cameron added: "We will not tolerate any attempt by any foreign power to intimidate, harass or harm individuals or communities in the UK." The foreign secretary said he had instructed British officials in Hong Kong, Beijing and London to "raise this issue as a matter of urgency with the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities".

The Chinese embassy in London responded by saying that it "firmly opposes" the UK's denigration of the rule of law in Hong Kong while "sheltering" people on the wanted list.

Ms Siu announced that she was an American citizen facing a bounty for "exercising my freedoms in my own country".

"More to say later but for now: I will never be silenced, I will never back down," she added.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller condemned the "egregious actions taken by Hong Kong authorities in announcing national security law changes and a new bounty list targeting democracy advocates overseas".

"That shows blatant disregard for international norms for democracy and human rights," he said. "Hong Kong authorities have no jurisdiction within United States borders where the advocates for democracy and freedom will continue to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed freedom and rights."

Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for Greater China, said the tactic of placing bounties on activists appeared to be emerging as a method of choice to silence dissent.

"The placement of a bounty under the guise of national security charges is an act of intimidation that transcends borders," Ms Brooks said in a statement.

She called for authorities to withdraw them.

The Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested four other people on Wednesday on suspicion of funding former pro-democracy lawmakers Nathan Law and Ted Hui – two of the eight activists targeted by the police in July – through an "online subscription and crowdfunding platform".

The four were alleged to have provided financial support to others committing secession. The amounts involved ranged from HK$10,000 (£1,001)to HK$120,000 (£12,021).

Nearly 300 people have been arrested under the draconian security law, including media mogul Jimmy Lai, who faces a trial on Monday.

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