Hong Kong authorities slammed for putting "bounties" on dissidents' heads
Hong Kong - The US on Monday condemned Hong Kong authorities for issuing "bounties" linked to democracy activists based abroad, saying the move – blamed on China's influence – sets a dangerous precedent that could threaten human rights.
Hong Kong police offered bounties of HK$1 million (about $127,600) for information leading to the capture of eight prominent dissidents who live abroad and are wanted for national security crimes.
"The United States condemns the Hong Kong Police Force's issuance of an international bounty" against the eight activists, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
"The extraterritorial application of the Beijing-imposed National Security Law is a dangerous precedent that threatens the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people all over the world," he added, saying China is engaging in "transnational repression efforts."
"We call on the Hong Kong government to immediately withdraw this bounty, respect other countries' sovereignty, and stop the international assertion of the National Security Law imposed by Beijing."
Human rights organization
The national security law – which has reshaped Hong Kong society and eroded the firewall that once existed between the special autonomous region and the mainland – has the power to hold accused people across the world accountable.
All eight activists are alleged to have colluded with foreign forces to endanger national security, an offense that carries a sentence of up to life in prison.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also weighed in from its New York headquarters to attack the bounties as "baseless" and an expansion of China's "political intimidation campaign beyond its borders."
"The Hong Kong government increasingly goes above and beyond to persecute peaceful dissent both within Hong Kong and abroad," Maya Wang, HRW's associate Asia director, said in a statement.
"Offering a cross-border bounty is a feeble attempt to intimidate activists and elected representatives outside Hong Kong who speak up for people's rights against Beijing's growing repression."
Cover photo: May JAMES / AFP