Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has strongly condemned China’s attempts to silence pro-democracy activists abroad. His comments came after Hong Kong’s national security police issued arrest warrants and bounties against eight pro-democracy activists who are currently in exile. The Chinese embassy immediately accused the UK of “sheltering wanted criminals” and interfering with China’s internal politics and rule of law.
Among the individuals targeted in the wanted list, three are currently residing in the UK. Nathan Law, the former legislative council member, is accused of both secession and undermining national security by colluding with foreign forces. Meanwhile, trade unionist Mung Siu-tat and pro-democracy activist Finn Lau are accused of inciting secession and undermining national security, respectively. In addition to the UK residents, five individuals residing in the US and Australia, including Dennis Kwok, Ted Hui, Anna Kwok, Kevin Yam, and Elmer Yuen, are facing similar charges and have bounties of 1 million Hong Kong dollars against them.
Foreign Secretary Cleverly made it clear that the UK will not tolerate China’s attempts to intimidate and silence individuals both within the country and overseas. He emphasized that the UK will steadfastly defend the universal right to freedom of expression and stand up for those who are targeted. Cleverly also expressed the UK’s strong objection to China’s national security law imposed on Hong Kong, including its extraterritorial reach, which violates the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Cleverly urged Beijing to remove the national security law and called on Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting individuals who advocate for freedom and democracy. This comes after more than a year of protests in Hong Kong against a bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China. In response, Beijing implemented the national security law on June 30, 2020, which aims to suppress secession, subversion of state power, and collusion with foreign forces. The law applies not only to residents and organizations in Hong Kong but also to non-residents who violate the law anywhere in the world.
Former UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has previously stated that the true purpose of the national security law is to suppress dissent and opposing political views, contrary to the assurances made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The Chinese embassy in London expressed strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the UK’s sheltering of the wanted individuals, accusing British politicians of interfering with the rule of law in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs.
According to Steve Li, the chief superintendent of the national security police, a total of 79 people have been convicted out of 260 arrests made under the national security law. Nathan Law, Finn Lau, and Simon Cheng, another British resident, have been wanted by Hong Kong police since 2020, shortly after the implementation of the national security law. Law, who founded the disbanded political party Demosisto, left Hong Kong for the UK before the law took effect. Lau, the founder of Hong Kong Liberty, left the city in January 2020 after being detained for two days. Cheng, a former employee at the British embassy in Hong Kong, fled to London in 2019 after allegedly being tortured by Chinese public security officials while on a business trip to China.
Additionally, British citizen and media mogul Jimmy Lai has been charged with undermining national security by colluding with foreign forces. Lai, the 75-year-old founder of Next Digital and Apply Daily, is already serving a lengthy sentence for multiple offenses, including fraud and involvement in unauthorized assemblies. His international legal team members have also faced allegations of committing offenses by Hong Kong authorities.
In conclusion, the UK government, represented by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, has strongly condemned China’s attempts to silence pro-democracy activists abroad. Cleverly emphasized the UK’s commitment to defending freedom of expression and called on Beijing to remove the national security law imposed on Hong Kong. The Chinese embassy, on the other hand, accused the UK of sheltering wanted criminals and interfering with China’s internal affairs. The situation has escalated tensions between the two countries, with the UK firmly standing against China’s actions.