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Repression Without Borders: China's Transnational Tactics and the World's Response

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

This blog is authored by Megan Khoo, Communications Manager at the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation.

“Just woke up to see I’m wanted with a $1M HKD bounty on my head,” wrote Anna Kwok.

“I am just a Hongkonger who speaks out for Hongkongers,” tweeted Nathan Law.

“It is a badge of honour,” said Finn Lau.

The Hong Kong authorities have placed HK$1 million bounties for any information that could lead to the arrest of eight prominent Hong Kong activists abroad. Apparently meeting with foreign politicians, participating in media interviews, and posting on social media is a threat to Hong Kong’s security, revealing the frailty of the Chinese Communist Party’s regime. Arrest warrants on such charges under the National Security Law (NSL) have now been issued for eight individuals in Britain, the United States and Australia, including Nathan Law, Kevin Yam, Finn Lau, Ted Hui, Anna Kwok, Dennis Kwok, Christopher Mung, and Elmer Yuen.

But what does this mean exactly, and how far can the arm of the Chinese Communist Party actually reach?

This is the ultimate test, and China’s next move depends on how the international community responds.

The NSL is vague, criminalising any behaviour that China deems to be secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces. Since China imposed the NSL in Hong Kong three years ago, the Hong Kong government has leveraged the NSL to destroy Hong Kong’s freedoms. The press has been silenced, politicians disqualified and educators forced to teach patriotism.

In response to the implementation of the NSL, the UK, US and Australia suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong. None of the countries have extradition treaties with China. However, the Hong Kong authorities can still make extradition requests, put out International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) Red Notices and use illegal means such as deploying Chinese Communist Party agents to spy on dissidents abroad.

Yesterday, Cantonese news outlets reported that the Hong Kong police said they would trace the local and overseas networks of the eight activists who now have bounties on their heads. Hong Kong authorities also said that Hong Kongers who participate in crowdfunding campaigns may be at risk of violating the NSL. The intimidation meter continues to rise.

The Australian, UK and US (AUKUS) governments must continue to signal to Hong Kong that none of these behaviours will be tolerated.

Already, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong made a statement expressing Australia’s deep concern and commitment to those in Australia who exercise the most basic human rights. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Britain “will not tolerate any attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals” and strongly objected the NSL. The US Department of State condemned the arrest warrants and bounties, affirming that the NSL is not legitimate on US soil.

The free world must do more.

AUKUS authorities should notify their respective police and border patrol forces to disregard Interpol Red Notices against these activists should the Hong Kong authorities decide to implement them. These activists who have courageously fought for freedom should not live in fear of travelling and face the prospect of being detained at any border. AUKUS should also coordinate with Interpol to enact an early warning system to safeguard exiled Hong Kongers from the oppressive Chinese regime.

This move intended to incite fear among Hong Kongers worldwide will fail if AUKUS and other democratic nations reassure Hong Kongers that they will not be handed over and that any extradition requests will be rejected.

We must make this moment, which is worth far more than HK$1 million, count.

Those who are being targeted by the Chinese Communist Party are friends and colleagues. They are braver than I could ever imagine. I stand in solidarity with every activist who is being targeted. We will continue to shine light on the dark and play our part.

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