Actions protect rule of law, national security from foreign interference
Central government officials on Tuesday firmly rejected foreign politicians' interference in, and condemnation of the Hong Kong police's lawful act of putting eight fugitives on the wanted list for endangering national security.
On the same day, Hong Kong officials pledged to adopt all lawful means to catch the eight fugitives and thoroughly investigate the forces behind them. Legal experts and political heavyweights expressed full support for the police move, saying it is prudent, legitimate and can carry a deterrent effect on other activists.
Hong Kong police on Monday offered a reward of HK$1 million ($128,000) for each of the eight fugitives wanted for endangering national security after the court approved the issuance of arrest warrants against them. They comprise three exiled former lawmakers and five other people who have allegedly advocated separatism and sought foreign sanctions against Hong Kong.
A group of overseas politicians and organizations, including a spokesperson for the United States' Department of State, relevant congressional bodies, the US Consulate General in Hong Kong, and the British foreign secretary, have since criticized the arrest warrants and openly slandered the National Security Law for Hong Kong.
A spokesperson for the commissioner's office in the HKSAR strongly rebuked the behavior of overseas politicians, pointing out that the eight fugitives have long been engaged in actions that jeopardize national security.
Even after fleeing overseas, the fugitives have continued to spread political rumors and advocate "Hong Kong independence", actively encouraging foreign interference in the SAR's affairs, and sanctions against Hong Kong.
Such behaviors openly challenged the authority of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the bottom line of "one country, two systems", posing a grave threat to national sovereignty, security and development interests, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson emphasized that Hong Kong police have acted in accordance with the law by pursuing these anti-China disrupters, and their actions are also in line with international law and common practices. It's a legitimate move by the SAR to safeguard national security, protect the rule of law and uphold social justice.
At a news conference, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mao Ning said the eight seriously hurt the fundamental interests of Hong Kong SAR and endangered China's sovereignty, security and development interests.
The spokesperson added that relevant countries should respect China's sovereignty and the rule of law in the Hong Kong SAR, and stop supporting and sheltering such activists. China is determined to oppose any external interference in Hong Kong SAR affairs, she added.
Meeting reporters on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said the government will do everything possible to bring the criminals to justice. Lee also called on the public, including relatives of the fugitives, to offer information to help the police track them down.
The only way to cancel the warrant is for the fugitives to surrender themselves, he said. Under the National Security Law, surrendering may result in the court considering a reduction in sentence, but otherwise, the individual will remain a fugitive for life and live in constant fear of arrest, Lee stressed.
Veteran solicitor and legislator Kennedy Wong Ying-ho said the eight have become fugitives following the issuance of the warrants. He said their activities have now been restricted and they're under extreme pressure.
Although the activists have fled overseas, they might go to places that have signed agreements with Hong Kong on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, Wong said. They would be detained once they return to the SAR.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, convener of the Executive Council and former secretary for security of the HKSAR, said that the police's efforts to track down eight fugitives have a deterrent effect, which can intimidate their followers.
Lawmaker Lai Tung-kwok, who also served as secretary for security of the HKSAR, said that the government's arrests will restrict the movement of activists.
Lai also believed that the government's high-profile arrests are not only intended to apprehend activists, but also to caution their supporters.
The government aims to convey to these supporters that they are violating the law if they provide financial or other forms of support to the fugitives, Lai added.