Home News Spy arrests chill Britain’s thriving Hong Kong community

Spy arrests chill Britain’s thriving Hong Kong community


Cheng, a Hong Kong democracy activist and former British consulate employee in Hong Kong, was detained in 2019, still visibly nervous as he recounted his experiences being detained in China. Arrested after a business trip to mainland China.

According to him, he was interrogated and tortured for 15 days. Beijing confirms he was detained but denies He was abused. When he was finally released, he no longer felt safe in Hong Kong, so in early 2020 he fled to the UK. and apply for asylum.

“In some ways, it wasn’t hard to adjust to my new life in the UK,” said Cheng, 33. “But I still couldn’t escape the fate of my hometown.”

His activism — and China’s pursuit of him — did not end when he moved to London. Last year, Hong Kong authorities Rewards offered for the capture of Mr Zheng and other activistsoffering a $128,000 reward for information leading to their capture. But like many Hong Kong activists living in exile in Britain, he hopes his new distance from Chinese authorities will keep him out of their clutches.

last week, Three men charged in London with gathering intelligence for Hong Kong and forced entry to a British residence. Although the men have yet to be found guilty or innocent — their trials are not due to begin until February — news of the arrests has raised concerns among many activists about China’s ability to monitor and harass its citizens overseas, especially those who are critical of the government.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday condemned the “false accusations” and “despicable actions” made by British authorities in handling the case. Last week, one of the defendants, former British marine Matthew Trickett, Found dead in the park Police classified the death as “unexplained,” which in Britain means an unexpected death with an unknown cause, including suicide. At Mr. Trickett’s first court appearance, prosecutors said Mr. Trickett had attempted suicide after being charged.

The arrests have sparked anxiety among the wider Hong Kong diaspora in the UK, even among those who are not politically active.

“You can expect something like this to happen, but it’s still so surreal,” Mr. Cheng said at the central London offices of Hongkongers in Britain, an organization he founded to help new immigrants. He had a bright yellow umbrella pinned to his sweater, symbolizing Hong Kong’s Pro-democracy demonstrations erupted on the streets of Hong Kong in 2014 and Again in 2019.

China implements strict national security Hong Kong Law In response to the 2020 law, which gave authorities in the former British colony broad powers to crack down on dissent, UK launches new visa for Hong Kong citizensSince then, at least 180,000 Hong Kongers have immigrated through the visa program. Rebuilding lives And continued to travel to Britain to participate in the democratic movement.

The UK Foreign Office said last week that recent allegations of intelligence gathering appeared to be “Pattern of Chinese Behavior Targeting the UK”, which includes offering rewards to those who provide information about dissidents.

Thomas Feng, 32, hopes the arrest will signal the start of a concerted effort by the British government to combat repression in China. “We’ve always known that someone is doing some kind of intelligence or monitoring what we do here,” he said.

Mr Fung came to the UK in 2012 to study accounting. After graduation, he found a job at Oxford University and decided to stay. As the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong gathered momentum, he felt compelled to express his support.

He took part in solidarity protests in London and later volunteered to help new Hong Kongers resettle. Eventually, he founded Bonham Tree Aida charity supporting political prisoners in Hong Kong. When the group’s name first appeared in pro-Beijing newspapers in mainland China, he said: “I knew there was no turning back.”

Politically active Hong Kongers like Mr. Fung and Mr. Cheng are not the only ones who worry about being targeted by Beijing. Families seeking better education and young professionals looking for job opportunities also feel threatened, said Richard Choi, a community organizer in the south London borough of Sutton.

sutton is sometimes called “Little Hong Kong“Because nearly 4,000 Former Hong Kong residents have settled there since 2021.

Mr Choi, 42, who came to London to work in 2008 and currently runs a Facebook group for newcomers to Sutton, is careful to hide the faces of people in the community in the photos he shares because many fear they are being monitored.

“I think they’re too nervous or they’ve lost trust,” he said of the newcomers. He said the community had become more nervous after Hong Kong passed a bill that would allow Hong Kong to “use its citizens as agents of international law” to control the flow of information. Article 23 of the Law In March this year, Hong Kong’s Supreme Court passed a law that makes political crimes punishable by life imprisonment and applies to Hong Kong people overseas.

“Maybe for a while people relaxed a little bit,” Mr. Cui said, but those with family in Hong Kong worry they could be jailed if they return. “They feel they have to follow the rules and not say anything.”

Despite the risks, some overseas Chinese are actively supporting pro-democracy activities. “I am very proud to be a Hong Konger,” said Vivian Wong, who moved to London in 2015. Opened a restaurant, Aquila Cafewill be held in east London in 2021.

Inside, in a noisy kitchen, chefs from Hong Kong serve up steaming bowls of shrimp wonton soup and plates of crispy Hong Kong French toast stuffed with salted egg yolk.

The walls are covered with photos of the protests. The blue flag of British Hong Kong The signs flew over cash registers. Ms. Huang knew China considered the signs provocative, but she remained steadfast in her opposition to Communist Party rule.

“They tried to threaten us,” she said, “but I wasn’t afraid.”

Catherine Li, 28, moved to London in 2018 to study drama. She began organizing solidarity protests in London in 2019. For a while, she used a pseudonym online to hide her identity. But when some of her political artwork went viral online, she felt she could no longer hide and began using her real name.

Her political views put her at odds with her family in Hong Kong, and she knew she might be arrested if she went back. “It took me a long time to accept that,” she said, exploring the conflict in her solo show. “In an alternate universe, I wouldn’t want to live in the UK”

Despite these difficulties, Ms Lee said she has found a sense of community in London.

It was here that she met her partner, Finn Lau, 30, who settled in the city in 2020. Now, their lives are a busy balance of day jobs – Ms Lee is a video game tester and actor, Finn Lau is a building surveyor – and activism.

Mr. Liu is Eight dissidents Hong Kong authorities offered the reward in July last year. He and other suspects on the list have been warned that they will be “hunted for life”.

But he didn’t always see London as a safe haven. He was brutally attacked by masked men under suspicious circumstances London in 2020. He still has scars on his face.

Liu believed the attack was related to his activities, but police told him it was probably a hate crime. The investigation closed after a few weeks. Contacted by fake journalist He suspected that these people were working for the Chinese government.

He had previously been frustrated by Britain’s inaction in the face of a growing Chinese threat, but the arrests in London this month gave him new hope.

“This is the first time that the British authorities have taken real, critical action to take the threat against Hong Kong people seriously,” Mr Lau said.

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