China’s Foreign Ministry has told Australia to stop sheltering fugitives and “stop lending support for anti-China” elements.
In Canberra, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong said she has deep concerns over the arrest warrants for two Australia-based Hong Kong democracy campaigners. Beijing accuses them of “anti-China activities aimed at destabilizing Hong Kong.”
Ted Hui is a former member of Hong Kong’s parliament, and now lives in the South Australian city of Adelaide. He and seven other campaigners left the former British territory after China imposed a national security law in 2020 following pro-democracy protests.
A bounty of more than $125,000 has been offered on each of the eight activists.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, John Lee, has warned that they would be “pursued for life.”
Hui told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Wednesday the arrest warrant would not affect his personal safety and was China’s attempt to muzzle dissent overseas.
“It is the political gesture that they want to make,” said Hui. “They want to spread this white terror to make all those who are overseas advocating for freedom of democracy just to shut up and not to criticize them anymore.”
The eight pro-democracy activists are based in Australia, the United States and Britain. None have extradition treaties with China.
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday China’s arrest warrants set “a dangerous precedent that threatens the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people all over the world.”
The sentiments were echoed by Australia.
“Freedom of expression and assembly are essential to our democracy, and we will support those in Australia who exercise those rights,” Penny Wong said on Monday.
Australia has been rebuilding its tattered relationship with China since the election in May 2022 of a left-leaning government in Canberra. It is eager to stabilize ties after years of discord and mistrust caused by disputes over democracy in Hong Kong, China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea and the Pacific.