5 Hong Kong democracy protesters seek asylum in the US

Hong Kongers at an anti-government protest on Nov 30, 2019. More than 11,000 people were arrested after massive protests that year. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - Five Hong Kong democracy protesters who reportedly fled to Taiwan have arrived in the United States intending to seek asylum, an activist group said on Saturday (Jan 16).

Their escape follows the mass arrest of democracy figures in Hong Kong under a new national security law that is part of a mounting crackdown by China on the financial hub.

The Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), a US-based group, said it had welcomed a group of young activists to America this week and their journey had been "arduous and perilous".

"The activists, all under the age of 30, took part in the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, faced protest-related arrests and charges, and fled the city by boat last July," Mr Samuel Chu, founder of HKDC, told AFP.

"I am relieved and overjoyed to welcome them to the United States and to assist them as they seek asylum and a new life."

Taiwanese media in August reported that the five Hong Kongers tried to flee to the self-ruled island in late July and were intercepted by its authorities.

Officials in Taiwan have since kept a low profile regarding the case, declining to comment.

After massive democracy protests across Hong Kong in 2019 in which more than 11,000 people were arrested, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law late last June to silence dissent.

In August, another group of 12 Hong Kong activists, including one arrested under the national security law, made an attempt to flee by speedboat to Taiwan but were arrested by Chinese coastguards.

Last month a Chinese court jailed 10 of these 12 fugitives for up to three years for "organising and participating in an illegal border crossing".

At least 50 former Hong Kong protesters applied for asylum in various jurisdictions before the coronavirus pandemic ended most international travel last year. Hundreds more have relocated to democratic Taiwan.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.