Sydney, Australia, Jul 4 (EFE).- The Australian government said Tuesday it was “deeply concerned” by the arrest warrants and bounties issued by Hong Kong police for exiled activists and that it supports freedom of expression for Hong Kongers in the Oceanian country.
On Monday, Hong Kong offered rewards of HK$1 million ($128,000) each for information leading to the arrest of eight high-profile pro-democracy activists, former lawmakers and legal scholars in exile in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia – countries that do not have extradition treaties with China.
They are accused of crimes such as inciting succession and colluding with foreign forces, which can carry life sentences under Beijing’s draconian National Security Law, which was imposed on Hong Kong three years ago after the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
“Australia is deeply concerned by reports of Hong Kong authorities issuing arrest warrants for democracy advocates, including those in Australia,” the country’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“Freedom of expression and assembly are essential to our democracy and we support those in Australia who exercise those rights.”
In an interview with public broadcaster ABC, she added that she has “expressed publicly for some time on behalf of this country the concerns Australia has, deep concerns, about the national security laws in Hong Kong, and about their broad application.”
“Australia has a view about freedom of expression, we have a view about people’s right to express their political views peacefully, and people in Australia who do so in accordance with our laws will be supported. We will support those in Australia who exercise these rights,” she said.
However, the move has raised concerns for the international exiles’ safety.
Warrants were issued for two people living in Australia – lawyer Kevin Yam, who has citizenship of the Oceanian country, and Ted Hui, a former lawmaker.
“This is China trying to extend the long arm of their so-called laws into democratic countries. And that is totally unacceptable,” Yam told ABC.
“It’s making it more clear that China is progressing towards more extreme authoritarian government, and more of a threat to the world than a friend to the world,” he said. EFE