Hong Kong police have issued arrest warrants for six pro-democracy activists living in exile, the first time city officials use an erroneous new law to target campaigns living outside Hong Kong.
They include Samuel Chu, a U.S. citizen living in the United States, Nathan Law, a prominent campaigner who recently moved to the United Kingdom after fleeing Hong Kong, and Simon Cheng, a former British consular staffer who was granted asylum in United Kingdom after claiming he was tortured in China.
Chinese state media reported that the six men were in demand for “encouragement of secession and coordination with foreign forces”
The move comes a month after China introduced a controversial national security law in Hong Kong. China said the legislation addresses the crimes of “secession, undermining, terrorism and clashes with foreign forces” and carries penalties as severe as life in prison.
Critics warned that it would be used to target legitimate opposition, and highlighted the unusual decision to enforce the legislation on both Hong Kong residents and non-residents. It apparently gives China jurisdiction outside its own borders.
Chu, who heads the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington DC-based law firm dedicated to promoting Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy, is the first person targeted under this aspect of the law.
He said China sent a clear message to other activists by ordering its arrest.
“I really want to emphasize how outrageous this really is,” Chu told The Guardian. “I am the first non-Chinese citizen to be largely targeted. I think they intend to try to make this an example. “
Several countries have since suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong, including the UK, Australia and Germany, as a possible safeguard against attempts to use national security laws to round up activists abroad. The United States ordered the end of Hong Kong’s special economic status earlier in July.
Chu, who has lived in the United States as a U.S. citizen since 1996, said the allegations amounted to China “targeting a U.S. citizen for lobbying with my own government.”
“We always knew that when the National Security Act came into force, there was a very uneasy and illogical, irrational idea that they claimed jurisdiction over anyone not even resident in Hong Kong who is anywhere in the world doing anything. , which they consider threatening, ”he said.
The other activists charged were Ray Wong, Wayne Chan and Honcques Laus.
Wong, who is currently in the United Kingdom, told Reuters that the charges showed that the Chinese government was afraid of the persecution work of Hong Kong activists internationally.
“I think they will cut off our connection with people in Hong Kong … it will make people fear that they may be violating national security law by contacting us,” Wong said.