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China Defends Bounties Offered for Hong Kong Dissidents

China Defends Bounties Offered for Hong Kong Dissidents

Saturday, 16 December 2023 03:41 PM EST

China on Friday defended controversial bounties offered for the capture of Hong Kong dissidents who have fled abroad that have been heavily criticized by foreign governments and human rights groups.

Rewards of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($128,000) have been offered for information leading to the capture of 13 opposition figures accused of violating the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s sweeping National Security Law.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China rejected the outside criticism, saying the arrest orders were “necessary and justified and … in line with international law and practice.”

Without directly mentioning the bounties, Mao said other countries also have extraterritorial aspects to their laws on national security, adding that foreign governments' support for those on the list was merely cover for their aim of destabilizing Hong Kong, an Asian financial center that was roiled by 2019 anti-government protests.

“We strongly oppose and deplore the individual countries slandering Hong Kong’s national security law and interfering in the judicial system,” Mao told reporters at a daily briefing.

A day earlier, Hong Kong police accused another five overseas-based activists of violating the National Security Law imposed by Beijing, and offered rewards for their arrests.

Mao said the five "endangered national security by destabilizing Hong Kong under the guise of democracy and human rights."

One of the five, Joey Siu, is a United States citizen who was born in North Carolina and moved to Hong Kong as a child.

“This morning I, a U.S. citizen, woke up to the news that an arrest warrant & a HKD $1 million bounty have been placed on my head by the Hong Kong govt. for exercising my freedoms in my own country,” Siu posted on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

“More to say later but for now: I will never be silenced, I will never back down,” Siu wrote. The police notice listed her alleged crimes as “colluding with a foreign nation or overseas forces to endanger national security."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement dated Friday that Hong Kong authorities displayed their “disregard for international norms and human rights in Hong Kong."

“We strongly oppose any efforts to intimidate and silence individuals who choose to make the United States their home and will not waver in standing up for those who are targeted simply for exercising their human rights,” he said.

The Hong Kong government in response said that the measures taken were “in line with the international practice,” and said no country should “harbour criminals nor exonerate these people with different excuses.”

The bounties further intensify the Hong Kong government’s crackdown on dissidents following the 2019 demonstration that grew increasingly violent and were harshly suppressed by police.

Many leading pro-democracy activists were arrested, silenced or forced into self-exile after the introduction of the security law in 2020, in a drastic erosion of the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997. Later legal changes effectively demolished any political opposition, with all seats on representative bodies either appointed by the government or reserved for those vetted and certified as “patriots.”

The latest arrest warrants were issued for Johnny Fok and Tony Choi, who host a YouTube channel focusing on current affairs, and pro-democracy activists Simon Cheng, Hui Wing-ting and Joey Siu. Those on the wanted list are believed to be living in self-exile mainly in Britain, the U.S. and Australia.

In July, Hong Kong warned eight other activists who now live abroad that they would be pursued for life with bounties put on them. It was the first such use of bounties under the security law, and the authorities’ announcement drew criticism from Western governments.

Police have arrested people on suspicion of providing funds for some of those who have fled abroad.

Both the U.S. and British governments have denounced the arrest warrants and bounties as flying in the face of human rights and democratic norms.

Mao responded Friday, saying, “The U.S. and U.K.’s support to these anti-China elements exposed their sinister intention of messing up Hong Kong.”

“China’s determination to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests is unwavering. The countries concerned should respect China’s sovereignty and the rule of law in Hong Kong and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Mao said.

Amnesty International described the bounties as “absurd” and “designed to sow fear worldwide.”

“This is further confirmation that the Hong Kong authorities’ systematic dismantling of human rights has officially gone global. The brazen tactic of placing ‘Wild West’-style bounties on activists’ heads seems to be emerging as a method of choice to silence dissent,” Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the region, said Thursday in an emailed statement.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow left Hong Kong for Canada earlier in December and doesn’t plan to return to fulfill her bail conditions.

Chow is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent young activists and was arrested in 2020 under the National Security Law. While she has not been charged and was released on bail, police confiscated her passport before returning it to her this year under certain conditions, including a visit to mainland China with authorities.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

China on Friday defended controversial bounties offered for the capture of Hong Kong dissidents who have fled abroad that have been heavily criticized by foreign governments and human rights groups.
china, hong kong, bounties, dissidents
Saturday, 16 December 2023 03:41 PM
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