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Hong Kong National Security Heightens Hunt for Overseas Activists With Lucrative Bounties

Darren Maung
Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.
Published: December 22, 2023
Simon Cheng is one of five wanted persons listed by Hong Kong authorities on display at a press conference in Hong Kong, China, on Dec. 14, 2023. (Image: Facebook)

On Dec. 14, Hong Kong authorities stepped up their hunt for overseas activists by painting five targets on their wanted list. This move followed requests from U.S. Congress to sanction the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its transnational repression.

These five activists include Simon Cheng, co-founder of the Hongkongers in Britain advocacy group, Frances Hui of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong based in the U.S., Joey Siu, a campaigner with U.S. citizenship, and Johnny Fok and Tony Choi, who operate a YouTube channel.

Since mid-2020, the CCP has saddled Hong Kong, a Chinese territory that is nominally allowed self-governance, with an oppressive “national security law” that heavily restricts the civil liberties once enjoyed in the former British colony.

According to Hong Kong police, they had “absconded overseas,” which prompted authorities to announce a lucrative bounty of HK$1 million ($128,000) for any information leading to their arrest. 

The targets have also been accused of “engaging in acts and activities endangering national security,” calling it “unreasonable” to oppose the move against them.

“Fugitives should not have any delusion that they could evade legal liabilities by absconding from Hong Kong,” a spokesman said on Friday, Dec. 22.

“Fugitives will be pursued for life unless they turn themselves in… we will pursue these fugitives… to the end and use all practicable measures to bring them to justice,” a statement by the spokesman read on the government’s website.


New targets

The five activists added to the wanted list join eight other activists, who were targeted by the CCP and had bounties on their heads for similar charges in July. 

The new additions were charged for “incitement to secession,” “incitement to subversion” and “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” police said on Dec. 14.

One of the activists, Frances Hui, stated that she was not surprised by the bounty placed on her head, vowing to continue her fight against the CCP.

“I will continue to do what I think is right, including my advocacy activities for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, and fighting for the imposition of sanctions on Hong Kong officials, continuing to advocate for the release of Hong Kong political prisoners, and continuing to appeal to the international community and [over China’s] transnational human rights violations,” she told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

“I will also continue to build the overseas Hong Kong community and promote Hong Kong culture,” she added. 

Joey Siu said that the authorities are turning their “trade and economic offices” in cities around the world into centers to monitor and target activists abroad, and now fears that there is nowhere safe.

“The Hong Kong government’s basis for making me a wanted person is comments I made as a U.S. citizen in my own country,” Siu said. “This just shows how unreasonable and all-persuasive this transnational suppression by the Hong Kong and Chinese governments has become.”

Simon Cheng said it was a “lifelong honor” to be listed by the authorities, though he feared that his friends and family would be targeted by the government.

“The accusations… that I betrayed my country are actually highly political and baseless,” Cheng told RFA. “It’s actually a pretty humble wish that the government respect the rights of its citizens, and allow their voices to be more freely heard.”

“We’re just a bit more persistent than the average person and are not afraid to carry on speaking out, so that’s why we are receiving this so-called punishment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Agnes Chow, another activist, fled Hong Kong this month after “sustained pressure from authorities,” and was allowed to travel to Canada for studies after being placed under surveillance in the city of Shenzhen.

International response

The attempts to target the activists have drawn the attention of several individuals in Washington, who have called for sanctions against officials involved.

In a joint statement by Chairman Mike Gallagher and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, they called out the Hong Kong authorities’ move as “unacceptable”, given that two of the activists are currently living in the U.S.; one of whom has U.S. citizenship.

“CCP-controlled Hong Kong authorities’ effort through intimidation and harassment to persecute U.S. citizens and residents engaging in peaceful political activism in the United States is unacceptable,” they said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also lambasted Hong Kong authorities for the move, saying that they showed “disregard for international norms and human rights,” as reported on Dec. 16 by Al-Jazeera.

“We strongly oppose any efforts to intimidate and silence individuals who choose to make the United States their home and will not waver in standing up for those who are targeted simply for exercising their human rights,” Blinken said in a statement.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron urged that his government would see to the case “urgently” with CCP officials.

“We will not tolerate any attempt by any foreign power to intimidate, harass or harm individuals or communities in the UK,” Cameron said in a statement.

“We call on Beijing to repeal the National Security Law and end its persecution of political activists.”

Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for China, claims the bounties are Hong Kong’s attempts to “sow fear” abroad. 

“Amnesty International calls on host countries of the overseas activists targeted by the Hong Kong government to effectively protect their rights, including by preventing, investigating, punishing, and providing redress for human rights abuses they may experience,” she said.