Not satisfied with hounding democracy advocates into exile, Hong Kong authorities are now harassing their families.
In 2019, Hong Kong and Chinese authorities took a number of steps aimed at tightening Beijing’s control over Hong Kong, despite the fact that these actions contravene the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulates that Hong Kong is to be self-governing, with a high degree of autonomy. In response, thousands of people rose up in massive protests that lasted for months but ended soon after the Beijing-imposed National Security Law, which outlawed public dissent of any sort, came into effect in July 2020. Since then, 260 people have been arrested in Hong Kong under national security-related charges and dozens fled the country.
But the officials in Beijing are not satisfied with stifling protest in Hong Kong. They are targeting critics around the world, particularly expatriate advocates for democracy.
In early July, Hong Kong police issued arrest warrants and bounties of nearly $130,000 each, on eight activists who live abroad, but who nonetheless continue to advocate for democracy in Hong Kong. They are pro-democracy lawmakers Nathan Law, Ted Hui, and Dennis Kwok; lawyer Kevin Yam; and activists Finn Lau, Anna Kwok, Elmer Yuen, and Christopher Mung.
In August, national security police raided the family homes of at least four of the activists; brought in more than a dozen family members for questioning; interrogated the ex-wife, son, daughter, and daughter-in-law of one activist and the parents and two brothers of another.
“This deliberate campaign to intimidate and silence individuals for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms is a further step in the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong. This is also a form of transnational repression to intimidate and silence individuals abroad and to coerce their return,” said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller in a written statement.
“The United States strongly condemns the Hong Kong authorities’ ongoing harassment of family members in Hong Kong of democracy advocates living overseas, who are being targeted simply for their association with their loved ones,” he said.
“We call on the Hong Kong authorities to cease all harassment of the democracy activists’ family members. We also call on the PRC government to respect the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong, as guaranteed by the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”