HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested four men they accused of providing financial support to people who fled overseas and are involved in activities endangering national security, escalating a high-profile crackdown on dissidents in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Police said the four are suspected of using companies, social media and mobile applications to receive funds that they then provided to the people overseas. A police statement did not identify the four suspects or the people they allegedly supported.
Local media, including the South China Morning Post, said the four are former members of the now-defunct pro-democracy party Demosisto, which was founded by Nathan Law, an activist who is now based in the United Kingdom. The newspaper Ming Pao carried a photo of former Demosisto chairperson Ivan Lam being escorted by police officers.
The Associated Press could not confirm the identities of the four, who authorities said are also suspected of making seditious social media posts. Police said the posts provoked hatred toward the Beijing and Hong Kong governments and advocated independence for the city.
On Monday, police accused eight overseas activists, including Law, of violating Hong Kong’s harsh National Security Law and offered rewards of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,600) for information leading to each of their arrests. The rewards are the first under the law.
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Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive John Lee, said the eight, who live in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia, will be pursued for life, and that anyone, including their friends and relatives, who offers information leading to their arrests will be eligible for the rewards.
The move by police on Monday quickly drew criticism from Western governments, which took issue with the extraterritorial application of the security law, imposed by Beijing following massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019.
Wednesday’s arrests further intensified a crackdown on dissidents since the protests. More than 260 people have been arrested under the security law, including many of the city’s leading pro-democracy activists.
Police said they searched the suspects’ homes and office and seized documents and electronic communication devices. The four were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces and commit acts with seditious intent, they said.
They said the operation is ongoing, and that they would not rule out the possibility of making further arrests.
Demosisto, which was earlier led by Law and former student leader Joshua Wong, was disbanded on June 30, 2020, the same day the security law was enacted. Law pledged on Facebook then that he would continue to participate in the resistance movement in a personal capacity.
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