The US and the UK have condemned the move as Hong Kong authorities expand crackdown under national security law.
Police in Hong Kong have offered bounties for information leading to the arrest of five activists living overseas, expanding a crackdown on those involved in the city’s once vibrant pro-democracy protest movement under a harsh national security law.
Law enforcement authorities on Thursday offered rewards of one million Hong Kong dollars ($128,000) for each of the five activists, who live in countries including the United States and the United Kingdom.
“They all betrayed their own country and betrayed Hong Kong,” Steve Li, chief superintendent of the police national security department, said in a news conference. “After they fled overseas, they continued to engage in activities endangering national security.”
The move, characterised by the US and the UK as an effort to restrict democracy, added to a list of eight activists who authorities named as fugitives in July under a national security law imposed by Beijing.
The five activists are named as Simon Cheng, Frances Hui, Joey Siu, Johnny Fok and Tony Choi. Many prominent members of the 2019 protest movement moved overseas when the national security law was introduced the following year, anticipating harsh measures from authorities.
“This is a threat to our democracy and fundamental human rights,” UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in response to the announcement, adding that he had instructed officials in Hong Kong, Beijing, and London to “raise this issue as a matter of urgency”.
Hong Kong police announced bounties for eight activists living abroad in July, warning that they would be pursued for life. None of them have yet to be arrested.
In 2021, the government rounded up at least 47 opposition activists, including elected lawmakers, unionists, and academics, accusing them of contributing to unrest and undermining national security.
Closing arguments in the trial of 16 activists, Hong Kong’s largest-ever state security trial, took place in late November. If convicted, they face the possibility of life in prison.
In October, a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the mass trials could “negatively affect safeguards that ensure due process and the right to fair trial”.