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Senior Superintendent Hung Ngan and Chief Superintendent Li Kwah-wah of the National Security Department pose for a photo at a press conference in Hong Kong, China, on 14 December 2023. The Hong Kong National Security Police are announcing the addition of five more people to its wanted list, each with a bounty of $1 million Hong Kong dollars (USD$128,077). (Photo by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Hong Kong Announces Bounties on Five Pro-Democracy Activists, Including a U.S. Citizen

Authorities in Hong Kong announced individual HK$1 million ($128,000) rewards for information resulting in the arrests of five pro-democracy activists living abroad.

The five people are accused of violating Hong Kong’s National Security Law, with charges including “inciting secession” and “colluding with foreign forces” that threaten the region’s security, BBC News reported. At a press conference on 14 December, Hong Kong police identified the five as Simon Cheng, a former UK consulate employee; Tony Choi; Johnny Fok; Frances Hui (also known as Hui Wing-ting); and Joey Siu.

The five activists are believed to have self-exiled themselves to either the United States or the United Kingdom. Steve Li, chief superintendent for the police’s National Security Department, said at the conference that “After they fled overseas, they continued to engage in activities endangering national security,” according to the Associated Press.

After the National Security Law was enacted in 2020, several pro-democracy activists were arrested or forced to leave the country for fear of retribution from the government.

A Hong Kong and U.S. joint citizen, Siu, 24, was largely involved in the 2019 Hong Kong protests and later escaped to the United States when she feared that her dual citizenship would be used by the authorities as a diplomatic tool. Siu currently works as a human rights activist and advisor for Hong Kong Watch. Siu noted that this was the first time an American citizen was the subject of such a bounty, which “demonstrated the extraterritorial reach of the national security law and the chilling effect that follows,” Reuters reported.

Choi and Fok host a YouTube channel that covers current affairs, and Hui was the first political activist who received political asylum in the United States after the adoption of the National Security Law.

Cheng was detained for two weeks in August 2019 while on a business trip to mainland China. He was accused of inciting political unrest in Hong Kong, according to BBC News. He was later given asylum in the UK and has since created a non-profit organization that supports former Hong Kong residents who moved to the UK.

The U.S. Department of State and UK’s Foreign Secretary have both condemned the bounties, chiding the move as a threat to democratic and human rights, adding that a foreign power’s attempt to harass individuals in their nations would not be tolerated.

This is not the first time Hong Kong has announced bounties on pro-democracy activists. In July 2023, authorities offered similar rewards for eight other people, with Hong Kong’s chief executive John Lee saying that they would be “pursued for life.”

While none of those eight people have been arrested, police did detain others accused of providing them with support. The AP reported that police arrested four individuals on 13 December who are accused of giving financial support (ranging from HK$10,000 ($1,280) to HK$120,000 ($15,400)) to Nathan Law and Ted Hui, two former pro-democracy lawmakers.

“These bounties not only threaten the liberty and safety of the activists targeted; they also have far-reaching consequences on other activists who are now feeling increasingly uncertain about their security, whether in Hong Kong or overseas,” said Sarah Brooks, deputy regional director for China for Amnesty International, in a press release.