The first bounties to be offered in relation to that sweeping legislation were announced, along with arrest warrants, by chief superintendent Steve Li at a press conference on Monday.
The rewards apply to former legislators Nathan Law, Dennis Kwok and Ted Hui; lawyer Kevin Yam; as well as activists Finn Lau, Anna Kwok, Elmer Yuan and unionist Mung Siu-tat. They are all currently living in self-imposed exile, in countries including the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
“The eight persons concerned who have fled overseas are alleged to have continued to commit offences under the national security law,” a government spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “The fugitives should not have any delusion that they could evade their legal liabilities by absconding from Hong Kong.”
China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 in the wake of widespread anti-government street protests that rocked the city. It has since used the legislation to crackdown on dissent, arresting legislators, journalists and democracy activists.
The sweeping legislation asserts global jurisdiction for cases involving terrorism, secession, subversion and collusion with foreign powers, which carry sentences as long as life in prison. That’s raised concerns China might reach beyond its borders to prosecute people for crimes under the legislation.
The UK government has previously alerted people in Britain named in a Hong Kong national security case to avoid travelling to countries that have extradition treaties with the Chinese territory. China has accused the UK of sheltering “wanted criminals” for granting asylum to Law, a former elected politician in Hong Kong.
“We will not tolerate any attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals in the UK and overseas,” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement. “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.”
About 260 individuals, aged 15 to 90, have been arrested for acts endangering national security in the past three years, Li said, adding that officials have charged two-thirds of those arrested. That figure includes arrests under the colonial sedition law that has been revived by security police.
Earlier this year, a Hong Kong student was arrested for sedition over a series of pro-independence comments she allegedly posted on social media while studying in Japan, local media including the South China Morning Post reported, showing the long-arm of national security charges.