Hong Kong Police Offer Rewards for Arrests of 8 Overseas Pro-Democracy Activists

Photos of eight activists who have been issued arrest warrants over national security are displayed during a press conference in Hong Kong on Monday.

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police on Monday accused eight self-exiled pro-democracy activists of violating the territory’s harsh National Security Law and offered rewards of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,600) each for information leading to their arrests.

The rewards are the first for suspects accused of violating the Beijing-imposed legislation since it took effect in June 2020. It outlaws 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, unionist Mung Siu-tat and activists Finn Lau, Anna Kwok and Elmer Yuen, police announced at a news conference.

They are currently living in the U.S., Britain, Canada and Australia after some were earlier accused of various other offenses.

Steven Li, chief superintendent of the police’s National Security Department, said arrest warrants have been issued for the eight under the National Security Law. He acknowledged that police will not be able to arrest them if they remain overseas but urged them to return to Hong Kong and surrender for a reduction in their sentences.

Li said the new charges and rewards are not intended to spread fear but are merely “enforcing the law.”

He cited articles of the security law which state that police have extraterritorial jurisdiction, and said they would pursue people overseas who endanger Hong Kong’s national security.

The news conference came less than two weeks after the state-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper issued an editorial stating that the National Security Law applies to people outside 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 increasingly tight scrutiny by Beijing following months of political strife in 2019. Authorities have cracked down on dissent with over 260 people, including many pro-democracy figures, 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.

According to the warrants, lawyer Yam, former legislator Dennis Kwok and activists Yuen, Lau and Anna Kwok are accused of foreign collusion for allegedly calling for sanctions against Hong Kong officials.

Former lawmaker Hui is accused of inciting secession, subversion and foreign collusion for allegedly calling for Hong Kong and Taiwan’s independence on social media, as well as for sanctions against city officials.

Law, who is currently living in Britain, is also accused of foreign collusion and inciting secession 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 media interviews.

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 suppress dissident voices.

“I ask Hongkongers not to cooperate with any related pursuit or bounty actions. We should not limit ourselves, self-censor, be intimidated, or live in fear,” he tweeted.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the U.K. “will not tolerate any attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals in the U.K. and overseas.”

“We call on Beijing to remove the National Security Law and for the Hong Kong authorities to end their targeting of those who stand up for freedom and democracy,” Cleverly said in a statement.