Authorities cancel passports of six democracy activists

The Hong Kong government said it had cancelled the passports of six democracy activists who fled to the United Kingdom, calling them “lawless wanted criminals”.

Since authorities quashed massive, at times violent, pro-democracy protests in 2019, Hong Kong has intensified a crackdown on dissent, enacting security laws that critics like Britain and the United States say have curbed the city’s unique freedoms.

Last year Hong Kong issued HK$1mil bounties for 13 activists based abroad who authorities accused of committing national security crimes.

The six named yesterday – all on the bounty list – are considered “lawless wanted criminals... hiding in the United Kingdom”, a government spokesperson said in a statement.

“They continue to blatantly engage in activities that endanger national security. They also make scaremongering remarks to smear and slander the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” the spokesperson said.

Besides cancelling their Hong Kong passports, police said anyone offering funds, leasing property or running a business with those named could face up to seven years in jail.

The six are former pro-democracy lawmaker Nathan Law, veteran unionist Christopher Mung Siu-tat, and activists Finn Lau, Fok Ka-chi, Choi Ming-da and Simon Cheng, the founder of the civil society group Hongkongers in Britain.

Hong Kong officials cited a national security law passed in March – colloquially known as Article 23 – as the legal basis for cancelling their passports.

Security chief Chris Tang defended the new measures as “necessary”, saying the six were “harboured in the United Kingdom and continue to collude with foreign forces”.

Asked if people would violate the law by subscribing to the activists’ content on online platforms such as Patreon and YouTube, Tang said “it is an offence to provide funds or to handle funds for those specified absconders, no matter what platform it is”.

Condemning the government yesterday, Lau said he has only ever held a British National Overseas passport, which is available to Hong Kongers born in the former British colony before the 1997 handover back to China.

“It is ridiculous to cancel (a Hong Kong passport) that never exists,” he said on X.

“Such a deployment of Hong Kong Article 23... is an explicit act of transnational repression and another breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Lau said, adding that this “does not deter me from advocating human rights & democracy.” — AFP

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