HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Four Hong Kong activists entered the US consulate on Tuesday (Oct 27), hours after a former leader of a pro-independence group who was preparing to seek asylum there was arrested nearby, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people.
The newspaper said it had taken a video of the four running up to the building in the Central business district and speaking with security guards before being allowed in. It quoted an unidentified person as saying the group was seeking asylum. It also said at least one faces charges connected to last year's anti-government protests.
There was no answer at the US consulate after business hours. The Hong Kong police had no immediate comment when asked about the report.
The move comes at a time of increasingly fraught US-China relations: The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on key officials after Beijing imposed a repressive national security law on Hong Kong, and recently added the financial hub to its refugee admission list for the first time.
In July, the US abruptly ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to shut down - prompting Beijing to demand the closure of the American consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
As policy, the US does not grant asylum in its diplomatic premises abroad. Earlier this year, the US pursued a Chinese researcher accused of visa fraud charges who spent weeks hiding out in the country's consulate in San Francisco before she was arrested.
Earlier on Tuesday in Hong Kong, Mr Tony Chung, former convenor of Hong Kong pro-independence group Studentlocalism, was held by at least three police officers at a Pacific Coffee branch in Central, the newspaper said.
The newspaper reported that it witnessed Mr Chung, flanked by two men, being led away from the shop located within 50m of the consulate. The officers were from the police's national security department, the paper cited a senior police source as saying. Mr Chung was being detained at Central Police Station, the SCMP said.
Studentlocalism wrote on its Facebook page that Mr Chung had gone missing since 8am and "was not found at his home, with no trace as to where he is".
According to the post, Mr Chung had planned to check in at the police station on Tuesday.
Hong Kong police said in response to a query about Mr Chung that they had arrested three people on Tuesday in the Central, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun areas for publishing content on a social media platform in September that "allegedly incited and abetted others to commit secession under the national security law".
The police statement did not mention Mr Chung by name. It said the three people were being detained for investigation. The police said that the operation is still ongoing and that more people could be arrested.
Studentlocalism said three people arrested, including Mr Chung, had accepted legal assistance.
Mr Chung was among those arrested under the city's new national security law in July over comments he made online that police said had incited others to commit secession, and was later released on bail. The legislation, which has raised concerns about the future of basic freedoms in Hong Kong, prohibits acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that he was not aware of Mr Chung's situation.
"We support the judiciary in Hong Kong to engage in law enforcement and fulfil their duties in accordance with the law," Mr Wang told a daily briefing in Beijing.