Hong Kong police have issued warrants of arrest for six pro-democracy activists living in exile, for the first time that city authorities have used a new respectful law to target campaigner living outside Hong Kong.
They include Samuel Chu, an American citizen living in the US, Nathan Law, a well-known campaigner who recently moved to the UK after fleeing Hong Kong, and Simon Cheng, a former British consular staff who was granted asylum in the UK after to comfort him was tortured in China.
Chinese state media reported that the six men wanted for “inciting unity and integration with foreign forces”;.
The move comes a month after China introduced a controversial national security law in Hong Kong. China says the law targets crimes of “secrecy, subversion, terrorism and the integration of foreign forces” and carries heavy penalties such as prison life.
Critics have warned that it will be used to target legitimate opposition, and highlight the unusual decision to make the law applicable to both Hong Kong residents and non-residents. That seems to give China jurisdiction beyond its own borders.
Chu, who runs the Hong Kong Council for Democracy, a Washington-based advocacy organization dedicated to expanding Hong Kong’s independence and democracy, was the first person targeted under this aspect of the law.
He said China was sending a clear message to other activists by ordering his arrest.
“I really want to emphasize how chaotic it is,” Chu told the Guardian. “I am the first non-Chinese citizen to be an important target. I think they intend to try to make it an example.”
Many countries have since suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong, including the UK, Australia and Germany, as a possible precaution against attempts to use national security law to round up activists in abroad. The US ordered the end of Hong Kong’s unique economic status earlier in July.
Chu, who has lived in the US as an American citizen since 1996, said charges rose in China to “target a United States citizen for lobbying my own government”.
“We have always known that when national security law comes up with a very disturbing and unreasonable, unreasonable idea that they are claiming jurisdiction over anyone who is not even a resident of Hong Kong, who is anywhere in the world, who makes whatever they consider to be intimidation, “he said.
The other activists to be charged are Ray Wong, Wayne Chan and Honcques Laus.
Wong, who is currently in the UK, told Reuters that the charges showed that the Chinese government was afraid of advocacy by Hong Kong activists around the world.
“I think they want to cut our connection with the people in Hong Kong … it will make people afraid that they could violate national security law by contacting us,” Wong said.