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Chinese Democracy Activists Exiled in the West to Be ‘Pursued for Life’, Hong Kong Leader Says

Published: July 4, 2023
Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee speaks during his weekly press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on May 30, 2023. (Image: PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

On July 4, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee, said that eight pro-democracy activists who fled China to the U.S., Canada, and Australia, will be “pursued for life” for alleged national security offenses.

At his weekly briefing Lee encouraged friends and relatives of the exiled activists to come forward and help secure their capture, saying they are eligible to receive bounties offered by authorities.

“The only way to end their destiny of being an abscondee who will be pursued for life is to surrender,” Lee said. 

Arrest warrants have been issued for pro-democracy lawmakers Nathan Law, Ted Hui and Dennis Kwok as well as for lawyer Kevin Yam; unionist Mung Siu-tat; and activists Fin Lau, Anna Kwok and Elmer Yuen.

They have been accused of collusion with foreign powers and inciting secession.

Kwok, a Canadian citizen, who also served in the Hong Kong legislature for eight years up until 2020, fled to North America and Law fled to Britain. 

Law told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that despite the bounty placed on him by the communist regime he “won’t stop [his] advocacy work.”

“Since I left Hong Kong three years ago I’ve been living a relatively discrete life because I know I’m a target of the Chinese regime and I’ll try to protect myself,” he told the CBC. 


Former Hong Kong lawmaker Nathan Law, now in exile in the UK, speaks at a rally for Hong Kong democracy at the Marble Arch on June 12, 2021 in London, England. (Image: Laurel Chor/Getty Images)

Million dollar bounties

Chinese authorities are offering bounties of HK$1 million (US$125,000) for his and each of the other activists capture. 

The bounties are the first of their kind under Hong Kong’s contentious National Security Law (NSL) which was implemented to criminalize secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers, however has been weaponized to crackdown on democracy activists and media outlets that criticize the Chinese communist regime.  

Despite the rhetoric, actual arrests are unlikely, however it will make the activists’ lives more difficult and will have far-reaching consequences that go well beyond the eight people targeted. 

Eric Lai, a researcher at King’s College London School of Law, told Time, “This is a way to create a chilling effect for the Hong Kong overseas community.”

China has long attempted to enforce its laws overseas, prompting many to accuse the regime of extraterritorial overreach.

According to a June 22 editorial, China is attempting to utilize the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to apprehend individuals it deems fugitives of the law. Safeguard Defenders, a not-for-profit human rights organization, points out however that the organization’s bylaws prohibit any intervention of “political, military, religious, or racial, “ nature. 

Both China and Hong Kong have signed extradition treaties with a number of countries around the globe, however following the implementation of the NSL all four countries where the exiled have fled have suspended the agreements.

Anna Kwok, told Time that she has been increasingly careful about where she travels so that she is not extradited back to Hong Kong.

“The same level of caution includes the route of my flights,” she said. 

Pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang leaves after attending a press conference at the Legislative Council Building on Nov. 11, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. (Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

‘Dangerous escalation’

In a statement posted to Twitter by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) the organization characterized the news as representing a “dangerous escalation in Beijing’s global war on dissent.”

“IPAC repudiates accusations of ‘collusion with foreign forces’, (incitement to) subversion and incitement to secession under the so-called National Security Law, illegitimately imposed by the PRC in violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and fundamental freedoms under international law,” the statement reads.

The statement calls on governments to “use all means at their disposal” to protect the exiled from “unlawful prosecution” and to make “crystal clear”  that any attempt to apprehend activists on democratic soil is unacceptable.

They call on all governments that have not yet done so to repeal all existing extradition treaties with Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“We continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong and advocate for the reinstatement of their full civil and political rights,” the statement says.