Britain has vowed to defend pro-democracy activists living in exile after Hong Kong police issued arrest warrants over alleged violations of the territory’s harsh national security law.
Some, including politician Nathan Law, who has been granted asylum in the UK, are living in Britain, while others are in the US, Canada and Australia.
Steven Li, chief superintendent of the Hong Kong police’s National Security Department, acknowledged police will not be able to arrest them if they remain abroad but urged them to return to Hong Kong and surrender for a reduction in their sentences.
He said the new charges and rewards were not intended to spread fear but were merely “enforcing the law”.
The eight are wanted under a Beijing-imposed law enacted in 2020 after the financial hub was rocked by anti-China protests the year before.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “We will not tolerate any attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals in the UK and overseas.
“The UK will always defend the universal right to freedom of expression and stand up for those who are targeted.
“We strongly object to the national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong, including its extraterritorial reach, in breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
Mr Cleverly added: “We call on Beijing to remove the national security law and for the Hong Kong authorities to end their targeting of those who stand up for freedom and democracy.”
The US also condemned the move, with a US State Department spokesman saying it set “a dangerous precedent that threatens the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people all over the world”.
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Activists appear defiant
Several of the accused activists appeared defiant, with Mr Law, who obtained refugee status in the UK two years ago, tweeting: “We should not limit ourselves, self-censor, be intimidated, or live in fear.”
Hong Kong police said 260 people had been arrested under the national security law, with 79 of them convicted of offences including subversion and terrorism.
The UK handed over the former British colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997, with Beijing promising to maintain Western-style liberties under a “one country, two systems” framework for 50 years.