HONG KONG - Hong Kong police have issued arrest warrants for six prominent pro-democracy figures who are now overseas, mainland media reported, just days after at least a dozen opposition candidates were disqualified from running for the city’s parliament.
The six are alleged to have breached Hong Kong’s new national security law by inciting secession and colluding with foreign forces, media reported on Friday (July 31), the same day the government decided to postpone the Legislative Council (Legco) election to next September.
This is the first time authorities have invoked the law’s extraterritorial jurisdiction to go after activists not in Hong Kong.
Democracy campaigner and United States citizen Samuel Chu, who runs the Hong Kong Democracy Council in Washington, is one of those targeted.
Mr Chu said on Friday that exile and foreign nationality are no protection against the security law.
“Hong Kong police is targeting a US citizen for lobbying my own government. I might be the first non-Chinese citizen to be targeted, but I will not be the last,” he said on Twitter.
“If I am targeted, any American, any citizen of any nation who speaks out for HK can - and will be - too,” he added.
The other five against whom arrest warrants were issued are disqualified lawmaker and key former member of the now-defunct Demosisto party Mr Nathan Law, former British consulate staff Simon Cheng and activists Ray Wong, Wayne Chan and Honcques Laus.
Mr Law said in a Facebook post on Friday he had no idea what his “crime” was and described the allegations as “trumped-up charges.”
He declared that his advocacy work overseas was of his own initiative and conducted without collaboration with others.
“Since leaving Hong Kong, I have also stopped contacting members of my family. From now on, I’ll sever my relationship with them,” Mr Law wrote, adding that the arrests, disqualifications and wanted bulletins “are indications of our need to remain active on the global stage.”
“That Hong Kong has no place for even such moderate views like ours underscores the absurdity of Chinese communist rule,” said Mr Law.
Mr Wong, who was granted asylum in Germany last year, said on Twitter that he had announced in May last year that he no longer supported Hong Kong independence and that he has not discussed this topic with any foreign diplomats since the national security law kicked in on July 1.
“So the only reason why I was sought for ‘incitement to secession and collusion with foreign forces’ must be based on my activities before the NSL (national security law) was in force. Today, the Hong Kong government unveils the fact that they’d use the law retrospectively,” he wrote.
Mr Wong, who once led the pro-independence group Hong Kong Indigenous, had skipped bail after being charged in connection with the 2016 Mong Kok riot.
So far, several countries have suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong, including Britain, Australia and most recently Germany, as a possible safeguard against attempts to use the national security laws to round up activists abroad.
Pro-independence activist Mr Chan was cited by Reuters as saying from an undisclosed location that “the situation faced by Hong Kongers is even more dangerous than what I face.”
Since the law kicked in, a dozen leading pro-democracy campaigners, including activist Joshua Wong, have been disqualified from running for Legco for their previously stated political views, while four students aged 16 to 21 were arrested on suspicion of “inciting succession” on social media.
Joshua Wong has said the reasons given by election officials to bar him from running in the Legco poll were “ridiculous” and accused them of twisting his views so they could prosecute him under the national security law.
Wong, who is facing charges for links to protests last year, blasted the ban as “the most scandalous election fraud ever in Hong Kong history” and one that is politically charged.
In a statement announcing its decision, the Hong Kong government listed criticising Beijing’s new security law, campaigning to win a legislation-blocking majority and refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty as instances of political views that require disqualification.
Before this, four students accused of organising and inciting secessionist activities were arrested on Wednesday under the security law.
The National Security Department said the suspects were involved in posting on an online platform that supported a ‘Hong Kong nation’ and that they had declared their intention to use all means necessary to achieve this end and to unite all pro-independence groups in Hong Kong.