HONG KONG — Hong Kong police on Monday accused eight overseas-based activists of serious national security offenses including foreign collusion and incitement to secession and offered rewards for information leading to any arrest.
The accused are activists Nathan Law, Anna Kwok and Finn Lau, former lawmakers Dennis Kwok and Ted Hui, lawyer and legal scholar Kevin Yam, unionist Mung Siu-tat, and online commentator Yuan Gong-yi, police told a news conference.
Issuing wanted notices and rewards of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,656) each, police said the assets of the accused would be frozen where possible and they warned the public not to support them financially or face the risk of violating the law.
“They have encouraged sanctions ... to destroy Hong Kong and to intimidate officials,” Steve Li, an officer with the police’s national security department, told reporters.
They have been charged under a national security law that Beijing imposed on the former British colony in 2020, after the financial hub was rocked by protracted anti-China protests the previous year.
Some countries, including the United States, say the law has been used to suppress the city’s pro-democracy movement and it has undermined rights and freedoms guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula, agreed when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Chinese and Hong Kong authorities say the law has restored the stability necessary for preserving Hong Kong’s economic success.
Yam, contacted by Reuters, said he would continue to criticize what he described as “tyranny.”
“It’s my duty ... to continue to speak out against the crackdown that is going on right now, against the tyranny that is now reigning over the city that was once one of the freest in Asia,” Yam, a senior fellow with Georgetown University’s Center for Asian Law, told Reuters by telephone from Australia.
“All they want to do is try to make a show of their view that the national security law has extraterritorial effect,” said Yam, who police accused of meeting foreign officials to instigate sanctions against Hong Kong officials, judges and prosecutors.
“I miss Hong Kong but as things stand, no rational person would be going back.”
The seven others gave no immediate comment to Reuters.
Police told the news conference that 260 people had been arrested under the national security law, with 79 of them convicted of offenses including subversion and terrorism.
Li said police were merely enforcing the law.
“We are definitely not putting on a political show nor disseminating fear,” Li said, adding that chances of prosecution were slim if the defendants remained abroad.
“If they don’t return, we won’t be able to arrest them, that’s a fact,” he said. “But we won’t stop wanting them.”
British-based rights group Hong Kong Watch said in a statement that Britain, the U.S. and Australia should issue statements “guaranteeing the safety of those activists named and the wider Hong Kong community living overseas.”