The Hong Kong police have issued arrest warrants for six democracy-friendly activists living in exile. For the first time, the city authorities have implemented a comprehensive new law to target activists living outside of Hong Kong.
These include Samuel Chu, a U.S. citizen living in the United States, Nathan Law, a prominent activist who recently moved to Britain after fleeing Hong Kong, and Simon Cheng, a former British consular officer who was granted asylum in the UK after he this was claimed was tortured in China.
The move comes a month after China introduced a controversial national security law in Hong Kong. China said the legislation targets crimes of “secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces” and provides for penalties as severe as life in prison.
Critics warned that it would be used to fight legitimate opposition and stressed the unusual decision to make the law applicable to both Hong Kong and non-residents. This apparently gives China jurisdiction beyond its own borders.
Chu, who heads the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington DC-based advocacy group dedicated to promoting freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, is the first person to fall under this aspect of the law.
He said China is sending a clear message to other activists by ordering his arrest.
“I would really emphasize how outrageous that really is,” Chu told the Guardian. “I am the first non-Chinese citizen to be essentially targeted. I think they want to try to make this an example. “
Several countries, including the UK, Australia and Germany, have since suspended their extradition contracts with Hong Kong to protect themselves from attempts to use national security laws to gather activists abroad. The United States ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special economic status in early July.
Chu, who has been a US citizen since 1996, said the indictment relates to China, “which attacks a US citizen for lobbying my own government.”
“We always knew that when the National Security Act came into force, there was a very worrying and illogical, irrational notion that they are claiming jurisdiction over anyone who is not even a Hong Kong resident, is anywhere in the world and does everything he does classify as threatening, ”he said.
The HK police are targeting a US citizen who works for my own government. I may be the first non-Chinese citizen to be targeted, but I won’t be the last. If I’m targeted, every American / citizen of a nation who speaks for HK can and will be.
We are all Hong Kong now. pic.twitter.com/KQYGcStY1e
– Samuel Chu @ 牧民 (@samuelmchu), July 31, 2020
The other accused activists were Ray Wong, Wayne Chan and Honcques Laus.
Wong, who is currently based in the UK, told Reuters that the indictment showed that the Chinese government is afraid of advocacy work by Hong Kong activists internationally.
“I think they want to cut our connection with people in Hong Kong. It will make people fear that they can violate the national security law by contacting us,” said Wong.