Hong Kong police have offered US$128,000bounties for information on five additional local dissidents living abroad, doubling down on the contentious use of bounties to track down pro-democracy campaigners.
“All of them, who have already fled overseas, have continued to commit offences under the National Security Law that seriously endanger national security,” said Li Kwai-wah, chief superintendent of the police national security department, at a press conference on Thursday.
According to Li, the claimed offenses under Beijing’s comprehensive rule implemented in 2020 include inciting secession and subversion, as well as cooperating with foreign forces to undermine national security.
The five, which included Simon Cheng, Frances Hui, and Joey Siu, “betrayed their country” by pushing for sanctions against Hong Kong leaders, according to Li.
“China’s National Security Law has extraterritorial effect,” the Security Bureau stated separately. “The police have the responsibility to pursue those who have allegedly committed offences under the National Security Law outside Hong Kong.”
Authorities issued similar prizes to eight democratic campaigners residing overseas in July. The United States, Australia, and Britain — nations where several of the accused activists currently reside — all blasted the move, with Washington calling it a “dangerous precedent.”
Meanwhile, despite a need that she testify to police this month as part of a national security case, prominent Hong Kong opposition activist Agnes Chow Ting does not intend to return to the city after traveling to Canada to study, leading Beijing to warn that no one is above the law.
On Monday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Wang Wenbin emphasized that no one has extrajudicial privileges in Hong Kong and that any unlawful behavior must be punished. He also condemned her “irresponsible actions” in “openly challenging the law,” echoing the city police force.
Hong Kong opposition activist Agnes Chow living in Canada
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government issued a strongly worded statement vowing to pursue Chow, condemning the activist for departing the city and branding her integrity as “sullied.”
“Regardless of any reasons or attempts to sway sympathy, her deceptive and reprehensible behavior, as well as her disrespect for the rule of law, cannot be hidden… The administration advises Chow to repent and cooperate with the police, according to a spokeswoman.
Chow stated to SCMP that she had been in Canada for three months and was pursuing a master’s degree.
“I was originally scheduled to return to Hong Kong by the end of December to report to police regarding the national security law [case],” she went on to say. “But after careful consideration, including the situation in Hong Kong, my personal safety, physical and mental health, I have decided not to go back.”
According to the activist, after she applied to leave Hong Kong for further studies in Canada, police told her this summer that if she went on a trip to Shenzhen, they would arrange for her to hear about the country’s achievements.
Chow, who co-founded the now-defunct Demosisto with fellow young activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung advocating self-determination for Hong Kong, was the city’s pro-democracy poster girl and had a sizable social media following in Japan due to her proficiency in the language.
She was apprehended in 2020 on the same day that national security authorities apprehended media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and two other activists in connection with an alleged scheme to coordinate with foreign powers by advocating for sanctions against Hong Kong. Police released her on bond and did not arrest her, but they did seize her passport.
She stated that five officers accompanied her to Shenzhen in August, where she visited an exhibition on the country’s opening up and the headquarters of Tencent, as part of a tour to demonstrate the “remarkable achievements” of Chinese Communist Party officials and the nation’s technical progress. Chow revealed on social media that she was terrified during the border crossing.
She was then ordered to write a letter thanking police for the arrangement that allowed her to “understand the great development of the motherland,” according to the activist.
Chow added that in addition to providing details about her master’s degree program, national security officers asked her to prepare a “letter of repentance” in which she expressed regret for her previous political actions and promised to discontinue them.
She was also obliged to promise not to contact persons from her past political circles, including former Demosisto and Scholarism members, she added.
Chow insisted it was “wrong” for anyone to accuse her of intentionally misleading national security authorities, claiming she had initially purchased a return ticket to Hong Kong and only decided to stay in Canada out of fear that police would impose additional restrictions on her freedom of movement if she returned.