Hong Kong Offers $1M Bounties For Dissidents Abroad

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jul 18, 2023 - 03:40 AM

Authored by Frances Hui via RealClear Wire,

The government of Hong Kong is offering a bounty of up to $1 million to anyone who can help find eight activists who fled to other countries and continue to fight against its authoritarian government. 

I am not one of the eight, but all of us who fight for democracy in Hong Kong are in danger from a Chinese government that is chasing us for showing that it has broken its promises to keep Hong Kong a vibrant and free city-state. 

I became an activist for democracy in Hong Kong at the age of 14, when I started participating in pro-democracy marches – hardly a radical thing to do. But eventually, when I was 21, I realized I had to leave Hong Kong, knowing that I would be arrested under the newly imposed National Security Law and face charges up to life in prison. Most of the friends I made throughout my activism have either fled or languish in jail. 

But leaving doesn’t solve the problem. The government of Hong Kong, directed by China, has sent people to harass us. The eight who are targeted are living in the U.K., the U.S., or Australia. Now, with the bounties, there will be more reason for people to stalk us. And I don’t see any evidence that the democracies that have provided refuge realize how serious this is. Instead of taking steps to hold China accountable, they are trying to create warmer relations. 

Four years ago, I was harassed and followed by Chinese spies in Boston, where I organized rallies in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Although one of the Chinese agents involved, a U.S. citizen, was recently indicted, more needs to be done. Many communities living overseas have endured constant surveillance and harassment by China’s 110 overseas secret police stations. China continues to deny their existence, and very few countries have made them shut down. The outposts of the Hong Kong government, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices, located in 14 cities worldwide, have also been working closely with Chinese consulates to brush off their ongoing records of human rights violations in the city state while maintaining close relationships with world democracies.

It’s the first time Hong Kong has issued official arrest warrants on overseas activists, with bounty eight times more than it would pay for help in arresting a child rapist and three times more than it would offer for a murder. John Lee, the chief executive, said that the eight activists would be “pursued for life.”

Many Hong Kong activists fled Hong Kong in the past three years as the government jailed dissidents who voiced opposition to Beijing. Many have said publicly they will not return to Hong Kong. So why is the government placing these bounties?

The rationale likely rests in geopolitics. The list of wanted activists was evenly distributed among the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, all of which have begun re-engaging with China recently after three years of diplomatic freeze. It’s as if Hong Kong is saying, can we go this far? Further? What will you tolerate? It is testing these democracies, and they are letting China win. 

Despite China's persistent repression of dissidents both within and beyond its borders, these countries have continued to prioritize improved ties and deeper economic interests over addressing human rights abuses. Instances of repression, such as the attack on Hong Kong protester Bob Chan in the Chinese consulate ground in Manchester, have not prompted strong action from the U.K. government. Attacks continue to happen against Hongkongers, including two who were recently kicked and manhandled by a group of pro-CCP activists at a rally in Southampton to mark the anniversary of the 2019 Hong Kong movement. Meanwhile in the U.S., the Biden administration has hinted its intention to invite the U.S.-sanctioned John Lee to attend the APEC Summit in San Francisco in November.

By neglecting China's human rights abuses, countries are exacerbating the situation. If they fail to defend their residents and refuse to impose economic and political consequences on China, this stalking and harassment will persist. This lack of action will also set a dangerous precedent, raising the bar for accountability on human rights abusers, like Russia and Iran, and sending a message to the world that their countries are no longer safe for free speech.

The international community, including the countries in which the activists reside as well as all Interpol member states, should prioritize human rights in their policy toward China. Diplomatic engagements should not be pursued that compromise the security of its people.

So far, the U.K, the U.S., and Australia have done nothing to punish China or Hong Kong for this outrageous decision to hunt down people who have entered those countries legally, seeking refuge. It must do something, soon, or the next list will be far longer, and China will understand that it can pursue close relationships without upholding the democratic values of the West.

Frances Hui is the first public activist from Hong Kong to receive political asylum in the U.S. She continues her advocacy in Washington, D.C., at the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation and We The Hongkongers.