Hong Kong police are pursuing suspects for crimes such as secessionism and fomenting discontent despite most of their quarry having long fled for the West or elsewhere.
With sweeping powers, agents from the newly established N division can now go after suspects beyond the city’s limits if they fall foul of the new national security law introduced by Beijing’s decree.
Meanwhile, an annual interests and property ownership register recently updated by Hong Kong’s government shows that the city’s ministers continue to park their assets on both sides of the Atlantic, with their homes and bank accounts in the United States set to become subject to scrutiny and possible sanctions.
Hong Kong activist-in-exile Ray Wong, currently in Germany, said on his social media account on Monday that he and five other like-minded separatists are wanted by Hong Kong police for contravening the national security law.
He thanked Angela Merkel’s government for suspending an extradition treaty with Hong Kong at the end of last month because otherwise he could have been shipped back to stand trial.
Wong, 26, a former convener of Hong Kong Indigenous, a political outfit known for its localist platform, was charged with rioting in 2016 after skirmishes with police in Mong Kok on the Chinese New Year Eve.
He jumped bail and fled to Germany in November 2017. He was granted refugee protection despite Beijing’s ire in May 2018, becoming the first Hongkonger to receive such asylum status. Wong has studied at the University of Göttingen since October 2019 to pursue a degree in politics.
On July 31, the day Berlin scrapped its extradition deal with Hong Kong, the city’s police announced a list of six democracy activists, including Wong, wanted on suspicion of breaching the security law.
Wong told Deutsche Welle and RTHK that Hong Kong police were merely doing Beijing’s bidding, and that issuing the list did not aim at hunting down those on it since Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France have halted the extradition of fugitives to the city.
“But rather, issuing the list of wanted persons is aimed at deterring overseas Hongkongers and mainland Chinese from connecting with people like me,” said Wong, adding that many dissidents and activists had sought to muster their ranks and recruit new members overseas after disbanding their local political groups before the national security law kicked in.
Wong also revealed on social media that he had met Simon Cheng, a former employee of London’s Consulate-General in Hong Kong who was detained for weeks by mainland authorities in Shenzhen during the height of last year’s unrest that crippled Hong Kong. Cheng has also been granted asylum status by London and is wanted by Hong Kong’s police.
The national security legislation outlawing secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign adversaries in Hong Kong was rubber-stamped by the Chinese parliament at the end of June, after the top leadership in Beijing decreed that a new law was needed to quell the lingering anti-government protests.
The law has been lambasted by Western governments as draconian and overbroad because it also applies to non-Hong Kong residents who may have committed offenses under the law outside of Hong Kong.
Separately, a US citizen who led a petition for sanctions against Hong Kong officials for undermining the city’s autonomy has become the first foreign citizen who may fall foul of the new law.
Samuel Chu, a Hong Kong-born American, has found himself on a separate list of people accused of endangering Beijing’s national security. Chu is known for his political activism via the Washington DC-based Hong Kong Democracy Council that he established.
China’s state broadcaster China Central Television has confirmed Chu is now a wanted felon. In reply, Chu noted on social media that “Beijing’s security law for Hong Kong spares no one.”
Chu said it was preposterous that he, an American citizen lobbying on US soil for democracy in Hong Kong, was under the jurisdiction of Hong Kong police and courts.
He also revealed that his group had been lobbying the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act and Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act to give shelter to Hongkongers fearing purges and making it easier for them to migrate to the US.
In the meantime, Hong Kong officials who devised the idea of publishing lists of wanted people may also find themselves, together with their relatives and assets in the West, subject to sanctions by the US and possibly its allies.
A register recently updated by the city’s government has shed light on the myriad of foreign homes, assets and nationalities of Hong Kong’s top leader, her ministers and their family members.
Hong Kong’s ministers for the civil service, health and economic development all have homes in the United Kingdom, the registry shows. The city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has offloaded her property holdings in Britain, but her husband and two sons still hold UK passports.
The wife and two children of Hong Kong’s Security Minister John Lee, who oversees the city’s police and other law enforcement agencies, are British citizens as well, as is Financial Secretary Paul Chan. The husband of Justice Secretary Theresa Cheung has Canadian nationality.
Two heavyweight members of Lam’s cabinet, Executive Council convener Bernard Chan and chairwoman of Hong Kong Stock Exchange Laura Cha, have properties in the US, the registry shows. Other senior officials own assets in Australia and Canada.
Chan said in an interview with the Financial Times last week that an American bank had closed his account, though he refused to speculate if it had anything to do with the national security law or sanctions from US bills concerning Hong Kong, such as the Hong Kong Autonomy Act.
Cheng Ming, an associate professor in politics with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said senior Hong Kong officials may face more red tape and scrutiny when they process cross-boundary transactions or manage their offshore accounts.
The US State Department has reportedly drafted a list of Hong Kong officials to be sanctioned, with measures that would include freezing their US-based assets.
Cheng speculated those who do not have properties in the US could also be affected given the fact that other popular investment and emigration destinations such as the UK, Canada and Australia are all US allies and may soon impose similar sanctions.
Lam, for her part, has shrugged off any ramifications from such US-led sanctions, saying during an interview with CCTV last week that she had no properties or investments in the US, nor did she ever fancy visiting the country.
But she refused to address questions about the UK nationality of her husband and sons in a separate interview with the city’s local media, saying that as a top leader she must protect her family. Lam renounced her UK citizenship before becoming a ministerial-level official in 2007.