Hong Kong s Chief Executive John Lee speaks during his weekly press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on May 30, 2023. AFP
Chief Executive John Lee expressed his support for the police’s efforts to arrest the eight. At his weekly media briefing, Lee said anyone, including their friends and relatives, who offered information leading to their arrests would be eligible for the bounties offered by the police.
“The only way to end their destiny of being an abscondee who will be pursued for life is to surrender,” he said.
The arrest warrants were issued for former pro-democracy lawmakers Nathan Law, Ted Hui and Dennis Kwok, lawyer Kevin Yam, unionist Mung Siu-tat and activists Finn Lau, Anna Kwok and Elmer Yuen. They were accused of breaching the Beijing-imposed National Security Law by committing offenses such as collusion and inciting secession.
More than 260 people have been arrested under the law enacted in 2020 as part of a broad crackdown on dissent in the territory, but the rewards of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,600) for information leading to each arrest were the first under the law.
The move quickly drew ire from the U.S. and British governments, which took issue with the extraterritorial application of the security law. The U.S. said such an application of the security law was a dangerous precedent that threatened human rights. Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong also tweeted that her country was “deeply concerned” by reports of Hong Kong authorities issuing arrest warrants for democracy advocates.
But Lee insisted extraterritorial power exists in the national security laws of many countries. He said how overseas officials and politicians commented on the government’s moves will not change his administration’s strong belief in safeguarding national security.
“I’m not afraid of any political pressure that is put on us because we do what we believe is right,” he said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s office in Hong Kong also rejected the criticism from the U.S. and Britain, warning “foreign interference forces” to stop shielding “criminals” immediately.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has come under increasingly tight scrutiny by Beijing following months of mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Police on Monday acknowledged they will not be able to arrest the eight if they remain overseas.
Eunice Yung, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, who is the daughter-in-law of Yuen, supported the police’s move on her Facebook page, reiterating she had already cut ties with Yuen in last August.
“All his acts have nothing to do with me,” she said.