Hong Kong leader says 8 overseas activists will be ‘pursued for life’

By James Pomfret and Donny Kwok

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong chief executive John Lee said on Tuesday eight overseas-based Hong Kong activists who were issued with arrest warrants for alleged national security offences, would be “pursued for life”.

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

Hong Kong police issued arrest warrants for the eight overseas-based activists on Monday, accusing them of national security offences, including foreign collusion and incitement to secession, and offered rewards for information leading to their arrest.

The accused are activists Nathan Law, Anna Kwok and Finn Lau, former lawmakers Dennis Kwok and Ted Hui, lawyer and legal scholar Kevin Yam, unionist Christopher Mung, and online commentator Elmer Yuen.

The police also offered rewards of HK$1 million ($127,656) for information leading to each possible arrest.

The activists are based in several countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia.

They are wanted under a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in 2020.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the move sets “a dangerous precedent that threatens the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people all over the world.”

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said his government “will not tolerate any attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals in the UK and overseas”.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the eight had been at the “vanguard of external anti-China forces’ intervention in Hong Kong affairs” and that the moves were necessary to safeguard national security.

She also expressed “resolute opposition to individual countries’ blatant denigration of Hong Kong’s national security laws and interference in the legal system (of Hong Kong).”

Anna Kwok, one of the activists who is now based in Washington D.C., told Reuters that she would continue highlighting China’s crackdown on freedoms and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

“I believe the values we’re fighting for are right. And that’s why I’m never going to stop, and I’m never going to back down, even though there’s a bounty on my head,” she said.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly emphasized that the national security law has restored the stability necessary for preserving Hong Kong’s economic success after protracted pro-democracy protests in 2019 that drew millions to the streets.

Lee said authorities would continue to “monitor” the actions and behaviour of the eight while overseas, without giving specifics on how authorities would do this.

“We want them to know that we will not sit and do nothing,” Lee said, who also appealed to members of the public to provide information on the activists.

(Additional reporting by Jessie Pang, Beijing newsroom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)