Sunday, February 25

Hong Kong offers bounties for 5 activists accused of security crimes

Hong Kong police on Thursday offered HK$1 million bounties for information leading to the capture of five overseas activists accused of national security crimes, adding they would be pursued “till the end”.

All five are living abroad after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the financial hub in 2020 to quash dissent after massive pro-democracy protests.

Thursday’s bounties were the second batch of hefty rewards offered by Hong Kong police pursuing fugitives accused of national security crimes.

Chief Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah said the five people were suspected of incitement to secession, incitement to subversion, and foreign collusion — crimes that can carry sentences of up to life in prison.

“All of them, who have already fled overseas, have continued to commit offences under the national security law that seriously endanger national security,” Li said at a press conference.

He said they “betrayed their country, betrayed Hong Kong, disregarded the interests of Hong Kong people, and continue to endanger national security even when abroad”.

Among them was prominent activist Simon Cheng, who is currently in Britain and the founder of civil society group Hongkongers in Britain.

The other four named were Frances Hui, Joey Siu, Fok Ka-chi and Choi Ming-da.

“We have placed bounties of HK$1,000,000 ($128,000) on each of them,” Li said, adding that Hong Kong’s national security police would “pursue them till the end”.

In response, Cheng wrote on social media that it was a “lifelong honour” to be hunted by the authorities.

“If the government deems the quest for democracy and freedom a crime, we embrace the charges to reveal the genuine face of social justice,” he said.

Mark Sabah of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation — where Hui works — said the Washington-based group would continue to support the activist.

“(Hui) has worked tirelessly in the United States to punish those responsible for the crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong,” Sabah said.

The national security law — which has reshaped Hong Kong society and busted down the legal firewall that once existed between the city and mainland China — claims the power to hold accused people across the world accountable.

Hong Kong authorities have not specified how enforcement abroad is possible, however.

In July, eight prominent activists also overseas — including pro-democracy lawmakers Nathan Law and Ted Hui — were named as targets for the police, which offered bounties of HK$1 million each for information leading to their capture.

Police on Thursday announced they had arrested two men and two women, aged between 29 and 68, in Hong Kong for “providing pecuniary assistance” to Law and Hui.

Those people were suspected of paying sums up to HK$120,000 to the duo on online subscription-based content platforms, Li said, without naming the site.

At least 30 people in Hong Kong had already been questioned by police over their alleged ties to the eight activists.

City leader John Lee — who has been sanctioned by the United States for his role as security chief during the 2019 pro-democracy protests — had said the wanted activists would be “pursued for life” and called on them to surrender.

The United States, Australia and Britain — countries where some of the accused activists now reside — had earlier condemned the bounties. – AFP

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