Hong Kong police question relatives of wanted overseas activists

Simon Cheng's family is hauled in and asked if they have sent him any money, a rights group says.
By Amelia Loi for RFA Mandarin, Cheryl Tung for RFA Cantonese
2024.01.11
Hong Kong police question relatives of wanted overseas activists Simon Cheng, a former employee at the British consulate in Hong Kong, speaks during a 2020 interview in London.
(AP screenshot from video)

A day after national security police in Hong Kong questioned the relatives of wanted U.K.-based activist and former consular employee Simon Cheng, news also emerged that the mother of U.S.-based wanted activist Frances Hui was also questioned last month.

National security police raided the home of Cheng’s parents and sisters and took them away for questioning on Wednesday, the London-based rights group Hong Kong Watch said in a statement on its website.

Police wanted to know whether the family were in contact with Cheng or had offered him financial support, and were later released without arrest, it said.

Meanwhile, a person familiar with the situation told Radio Free Asia that police last month also questioned the mother of Frances Hui, although Hui declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Thursday.

Hui's mother had been hauled in to a local police station for questioning a few days after police issued arrest warrants for Hui, Cheng, U.S. citizen and Hong Kong campaigner Joey Siu and overseas YouTube hosts Johnny Fok and Tony Choi on Dec. 15. They offered HK$1 million bounty for information leading to their arrests, the person said.

Hui said via social media on Thursday that she has a policy of not commenting on her family, and has reiterated that she is financially independent. She has previously hit out at the international community for enabling China's "long-arm" repression of overseas dissidents through inaction, and called for multilateral cooperation to address the issue.

Her mother's questioning was also reported by Hong Kong Watch, along with the questioning of relatives of exiled democracy activist Agnes Chow two weeks ago after she skipped bail and fled to Canada last month.

‘Incitement and secession’

Like the other wanted activists, Simon Cheng has been charged in absentia with "incitement to secession" and "collusion with foreign forces" in relation to his actions since he fled to the U.K., where he has been granted political asylum.

He and other fellow activists in exile have publicly cut off ties with their families back home since fleeing an ongoing crackdown on dissent under a draconian security law imposed by China in the wake of the 2019 protest movement.

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The image of activist Frances Hui is displayed during a press conference on the issuance of arrest warrants for her and others in Hong Kong, Dec. 14, 2023. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

He said in a statement published by Hong Kong Watch: “My father swam to Hong Kong in his early years, living under others' roofs and once residing in the Kowloon Walled City… I remember my father saying that in that particular year, upon seeing the lights and soda cans reflected from Hong Kong, he swam across to the other side, a perilous journey."

"In pursuit of the dream of freedom, he navigated between the power gaps of two influential nations, a penniless young man carrying the burden of a fractured family separated between mainland China and Hong Kong," Cheng said.

“We are at different places now – struggling to survive in this harsh world… Though the broken mirror once reunited, the cracks persist, and now it shatters again," he said.

"My only hope is that my parents can enjoy a dignified, peaceful, and serene old age – until our next life when and where we may finally meet," Cheng wrote.

More like the mainland

Hong Kong Watch co-founder and Chief Executive Benedict Rogers said Hong Kong under the national security crackdown is "becoming increasingly like mainland China," where the families of activists are also targeted by the authorities.

“The Hong Kong authorities have no business questioning the family members of a brave Hong Kong activist who fled from Hong Kong to the UK more than three years ago," Rogers said. 

"It must be made immediately clear that the extraterritoriality of the National Security Law is not valid in Britain, and is in clear violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration," he said, in a reference to the treaty governing the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China.

"From the questioning of Simon Cheng’s family to the outrageous show trial of Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong authorities’ actions which openly threaten activists in Hong Kong and abroad are completely unacceptable," Rogers said.

"The U.K. must stand up to the Chinese Communist Party, and stand alongside our courageous friends who continue to advocate for democracy and defend their homeland."

The Hong Kong authorities have made no public statement on the questioning of Cheng's relatives, which was reported by several media outlets in the city, including the Chinese-language Ming Pao newspaper.

But the authorities have repeatedly described the activists as "fugitives," vowing to pursue them 

for the rest of their lives, using "all practicable measures to bring them to justice."

Hui pointed out on her X account, formerly Twitter, on Thursday that wanted posters for 13 overseas activists were now on display at Hong Kong's International Airport.

"Taken at the #HongKong international airport ─ I now join the rest of the bounty list to have our faces and warrants all splashed around streets in Hong Kong," she wrote. 

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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