Australian leader criticizes Hong Kong's attempt to arrest 2 activists who now live in Australia

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FILE - Pro-democracy legislator Ted Hui, center, is arrested by police officers in Hong Kong, on Aug. 26, 2020. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, criticized Hong Kong authorities over their pursuit of two pro-democracy activists, including Hui, who live in Australia. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

CANBERRA – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday criticized Hong Kong authorities over their pursuit of two pro-democracy activists who live in Australia.

Hong Kong’s leader said Tuesday that eight pro-democracy activists who now live in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia will be pursued for life for alleged national security offenses, dismissing criticism that the move to have them arrested was a dangerous precedent.

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Albanese said his government was concerned and disappointed by Hong Kong authorities issuing arrest warrants for Australian citizen Kevin Yam and Australian permanent resident Ted Hui.

“I am of course disappointed. I’ve said we’ll cooperate with China where we can. But we will disagree where we must. And we do disagree with China with these actions,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The U.S. and British governments also criticized the move, taking issue with the extraterritorial application of Hong Kong's National Security Law. The U.S. said it marked a dangerous precedent that threatened human rights, and Britain said it will not tolerate attempts by China to intimidate and silence people overseas.

Hong Kong's leader John Lee insisted that extraterritorial power exists in the security laws of many countries and his government will not be swayed by comments by overseas officials and politicians.

Albanese also said he disagreed with China on the detention of Australian journalist Cheng Lei who has yet to learn of a verdict after standing trial in March last year on national security charges.

He said Cheng was being held “without proper process.”

“We continue to advocate for the interests of Australia. We’ll continue to do so. We will disagree where we must. We will engage in our national interest. And this decision overnight is an example of where Australia and China do have different approaches to these issues. And we’ll stand up for our values,” Albanese said.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has come under increasingly tight scrutiny by Beijing following months of mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Hong Kong police have acknowledged they will not be able to arrest the eight if they remain overseas.