Canada condemns the arrest warrants and the rewards promised by Hong Kong

Nono Shin and Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

A democracy activist who is in Vancouver promoting his plans for a Hong Kong parliament in exile said he had no fear after mainland China offered a bounty for his arrest.

However, Elmer Yuen called on the Canadian government to revoke the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, in light of the $170,000 rewards offered for his arrest and those of seven other activists in the United States, Britain and Australia.

A few days after these three allies, Canada also condemned Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday for issuing arrest warrants against eight pro-democracy activists living abroad.

Global Affairs tweeted Wednesday morning that Canada is “extremely concerned” about the warrants and promised rewards. “Canada condemns the extraterritorial application of the national security law, which undermines the rights and freedoms guaranteed by Hong Kong law,” Ottawa said.

Mr. Yuen, 74, lives in the US but travels frequently to Canada. He stayed in Vancouver for several days to encourage Canadians to support his goal of electing a Hong Kong Parliament outside the territory and to persuade Ottawa to agree to this project.

He said in an interview that the reward offered by the Hong Kong police on Monday prompted him to fly from San Francisco to Vancouver to promote his plan while meeting with immigrants from Hong Kong in British Columbia.

“I am not afraid,” he assured.

An extradition treaty between Canada and Hong Kong was suspended in 2020 after the passage of the national security law, but Mr Yuen believes that treaty should be scrapped “immediately” altogether.

Mr. Yuen launched the Parliament in Exile project in Toronto a year ago, along with Vancouver-based journalist Victor Hu, with the goal of holding a token vote, online, later this year or early next.

This parliament-in-exile, Yuen said, aims to reflect the democratic strength of Hong Kong residents after the territory’s crackdown on civil liberties and sweeping electoral changes since 2019.

“disruptive gesture”

But Hong Kong police say the plan is a subversive move against state authority and accuse Mr Yuen of colluding with a foreign country to endanger security, in violation of national security law. The other seven activists face similar charges.

Hong Kong’s national security law restricts civil liberties in the territory, which is now a “special administrative region” within China. When Britain ceded its former colony to Beijing in 1997, Hong Kong was nonetheless guaranteed some democratic freedoms.

Dennis Kwok, who was born in Edmonton but renounced his Canadian citizenship when he became an MP for Hong Kong in 2012, is also on the list of people for whom arrest warrants have been issued.

He left office when the national security law came into force in 2020, and Hong Kong police said in a statement that he has since called for sanctions against officials in China and Hong Kong.

Ottawa’s condemnation on Wednesday comes after the US, Britain and Australia condemned the arrest warrants, though it was unclear whether those countries would impose sanctions or suspend cooperation with Hong Kong.

China’s Foreign Ministry accuses foreign countries of “interfering” in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. “These countries provide a safe haven for fugitives,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said on Tuesday that the activists will face life trials on alleged national security charges. Hong Kong’s chief of security, Chris Tang, said authorities were seeking to freeze and seize the assets held by these eight activists.

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