This blog is authored by Simon Cheng, Founder of Hongkongers in Britain.
Although the wanted list does not come as a surprise to many in the Hong Kong community, the move is still symbolic as it marks the first time the national security police in Hong Kong have publicly issued arrest warrants with bounties attached for Hong Kong activists in exile.
I believe this act is an attempt by the Hong Kong authorities to please and satisfy their masters in Beijing through adequately commemorating the third anniversary of the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong as well as the 26th anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China. The incident is a political show.
Nevertheless, the Hong Kong police are offering incentive, a HK$1 million bounty, to state-sponsored private actors amongst informant networks abroad to carry out extrajudicial surveillance and abduction on the Hong Kong Eight. The bounties demonstrate the far-reach of the extraterritoriality clause of the draconian National Security Law in Hong Kong like never before. In response to this outright example of transnational repression towards the Hong Kong diaspora worldwide, Hong Kongers in the UK, especially our exiled community members, should remain vigilant.
The potential risk and danger for those who are on the wanted list is apparent, but others who are not on the list may face even more danger as they could neglect to take pre-cautionary measures for their safety, while living and travelling abroad.
It seems to me as if the Hong Kong national security police are targeting the Hong Kong Eight for either vocally advocating for sanctioning Hong Kong officials, police officers, prosecutors and judges or vocally organising exiled groups that engage with government bodies in their respective countries. Unfortunately, I think the wanted list will only continue to expand. Perhaps it could become a ‘ritual’ that the Hong Kong authorities add to the wanted list year after year to mark the anniversaries of the imposition of the National Security Law and the handover of Hong Kong. This would routinely exert a chilling effect to the world while also justifying to Beijing that the Hong Kong government is ‘diligently working’ to suppress anything they deem to be dissident.
As my advocacy focuses on the Hong Kong community in Britain including human rights violations towards Hong Kongers in the UK domestic context, I have heard mixed reactions from Hongkongers in Britain in the past few weeks. Following the bounties, the recent physical assault by pro-Beijing students against Hongkongers in Southampton and the attack on Bob Chan in Manchester last year, Hongkongers are either more motivated to challenge the Chinese Communist Party in defence of universal human rights or they are bowing to pressure from the Hong Kong authorities for the sake of their personal or familial safety. Hongkongers in Britain is here to provide support to all Hongkongers alike.
We will continue to pay close attention to the extraterritorial reach of the National Security Law as it impacts Hongkongers in the UK. The bounties signal the tightening grip and aggression of the Hong Kong national security police force, which does not and should not have any jurisdiction in Britain. The British government should fulfil its special responsibility to Hong Kong by defending the Hongkongers on British soil and holding the Hong Kong authorities accountable for these repressive actions. No Hongkonger should be left behind.