Hong Kong national security police have issued arrest warrants for eight self-exiled activists, including former lawmakers Ted Hui and Dennis Kwok. The Force also offered HK$1 million for each of the wanted people.
The announcement came a week after an editorial in state-owned newspaper Ta Kung Pao cited Article 38 of the national security law, which states that the sweeping legislation applies to people outside the city. It added that China – as a member of International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol – can request international cooperation from member countries to help apprehend fugitives.
Police named ex-lawmakers Ted Hui and Dennis Kwok; activists Nathan Law, Anna Kwok, Elmer Yuen, Mung Siu-tat and Finn Lau; and solicitor Kevin Yam as the eight who were wanted.
Chief superintendent of the national security police Steve Li said offering the bounties was not the Force’s way of putting on a show, but was enforcement of the law.
He cited Article 37 and Article 38 of the Beijing-enacted security law, and said Hong Kong police had extraterritorial jurisdiction and the responsibility to pursue individuals based overseas who committed acts endangering the city’s national security. Such powers were stipulated in similar legislations adopted in other countries and regions, he said.
Police said that the group had “seriously violated the national security offences” by ”calling for sanctions against local officials“ and “scheming for foreign countries to undermine Hong Kong’s status as a financial centre.” The eight should come forward and surrender, police added, saying the courts may consider imposing a lighter penalty if they did so.
Li admitted that the Force would not be able to arrest the wanted individuals if they did not return to the city. But the arrest warrants would be useful for future law enforcement actions, he said.
The purpose of offering reward notices for the eight activists was to allow the Hong Kong authorities to find their whereabouts and be prepared to make “effective arrests” in case the wanted individuals return to the city one day.
“Of course, you may say that now they are in overseas, that will not be useful. But you never know, maybe someday they come back to Hong Kong through other illegal means, that kind of information should be very useful for us,” he said.
China’s top legislative body passed a national security law in Hong Kong in June 2020 after months of protests and unrests against a controversial extradition law. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.
The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
Calls for sanctions, independence
Speaking at Monday’s press conference, Senior Superintendent Hung Ngan of the police National Security Department said the Force had evidence against the eight wanted individuals relating to their alleged national security offences.
According to the arrest warrant, solicitor Yam, 46, was said to have met with foreign government leaders in November and December last year and called for sanctions against Hong Kong officials. He also allegedly made similar appeals at a hearing held by an official foreign organisation in May, asking foreign countries to sanction members of the city’s Judiciary and public prosecutors.
Yam stands accused of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”
Hui, 41, is wanted for inciting subversion and secession, and foreign collusions. He was said to have initiated the “2021 Hong Kong Charter” with others since March 2021 and repeatedly advocated for Hong Kong independence and Taiwan independence on social media platforms.
He also allegedly called for sanctions against local officials in social media posts and engaged in other activities which the police described as being hostile against China and Hong Kong between January 2021 and December 2022.
Yuen, 74, who is the father-in-law of pro-establishment legislator Eunice Yung, was said to have urged foreign countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong officials and members of the Judiciary on various online platforms between July 2020 and May 2023. He was also among the activists behind a plan to form a “Hong Kong Parliament” last year, which promoted Hongkongers’ right to self-determination. Such acts amounted to subverting the state power and foreign collusion, police said.
The Security Bureau said last August that the activists involved in the “Hong Kong Parliament” were suspected of subversion.
Police alleged 45-year- old ex-Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok supported recommendations in a report published by a foreign organisation in September 2021, which requested overseas governments to impose sanctions and blockade and in other hostile activities against China and Hong Kong.
The former politician, who is also a lawyer, was said to have appealed for financial sanctions on Hong Kong at a meeting held overseas last December. He faces a charge of colluding with foreign forces.
Activist Law, 29, stands accused of requesting foreign sanctions or blockade on Hong Kong and calling for the city’s separation from China by attending hearings, meeting foreign politicians, giving media interviews, penning open letters, signing petitions and making social media posts between July 2020 and last November.
Police said his actions amounted to inciting secession and foreign collusion.
According to police, between September 2021 and last February, 26-year-old activist Anna Kwok met foreign lawmakers and officials to call for sanctions, and attended meetings of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, for which she has been accused of colluding with foreign agents.
Mung, 51, faces one charge of inciting secession over an overseas meeting held in June 2022 at which police said he “smeared” the Hong Kong and central governments, and advocated separating the city from mainland China.
Twenty-nine-year-old Lau is facing a foreign collusion charge after allegedly calling for sanctions on various platforms through Hong Kong Liberty, an organisation he founded, between July 2020 and June 2021.
The national security police would take “necessary and effective measures” to cut off the chain of funding to the wanted activists, said Senior Superintendent Hung Ngan of the National Security Department.
Some of the wanted people had “flagrantly” launched crowdfunding campaigns online, Hung said. The senior superintendent warned that the Force would also track down contacts of the wanted individuals in Hong Kong and overseas, as well as the source of their funding.
“I want to remind everyone that assisting, instigating and using money or other properties to fund others in committing offences endangering national security also amounts to breaching the law,” he said.
Additional reporting: Hillary Leung.
Correction 23:00: A previous version of this article referred to Kevin Yam as a barrister, as opposed to a solicitor. We regret the error.