Hong Kong police have issued arrest warrants for six pro-democracy activists living in exile, the first time city authorities have used a sweeping new law to target campaigns living outside Hong Kong.
They include Samuel Chu, a U.S. citizen living in the United States, Nathan Law, a prominent campaigner who recently moved to the UK after fleeing Hong Kong, and Simon Cheng, a former British consular staff who was granted asylum in the UK after alleged that he was tortured in China.
Chinese state media reported that the six men were wanted for “calls for isolation and cooperation with foreign forces”
The move comes a month after China introduced controversial national security legislation in Hong Kong. China said the legislation targets violations of “isolation, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces” and entails punishments as severe as life in prison.
Critics warned that it would be used to target legitimate opposition and highlighted the unusual decision to make the law applicable to both Hong Kong residents and non-residents. It obviously gives China authority outside its own borders.
Chu, who runs the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington DC-based advocacy organization dedicated to promoting Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy, is the first person to address this aspect of the law.
He said China was sending a clear message to other activists by ordering its arrest.
“I would really stress how outrageous this really is,” Chu told the Guardian. “I am the first non-Chinese citizen to be targeted. I think they intend to try to make this an example. “
Several countries have since suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany, as a possible safeguard against attempts to use national security laws to round up activists abroad. The United States ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special economic status earlier in July.
Chu, who has lived in the United States as a U.S. citizen since 1996, said the allegations amounted to China “targeting a U.S. citizen to lobby my own government.”
“We always knew that when national security legislation came into force, there was a very disturbing and illogical, irrational idea that they were claiming jurisdiction over anyone who is not even a resident of Hong Kong, who is anywhere in the world and is doing something they consider threatening.” he said.
The other accused activists were Ray Wong, Wayne Chan and Honcques Laus.
Wong, who is currently in the UK, told Reuters that the allegations showed that the Chinese government was afraid of advocacy from Hong Kong activists internationally.
“I think they want to cut off our connection to people in Hong Kong … it will make people fear that they can break national security laws by contacting us,” Wong said.