China blasts UK for granting asylum to Hong Kong activist Nathan Law

Chinese authorities have accused the UK of sheltering a “criminal suspect” after it granted asylum to Hong Kong activist and former politician Nathan Law.

Law, who fled Hong Kong in 2020, said on Wednesday he had been granted political asylum by the Home Office and the warrant for his arrest under the Beijing-imposed national security law showed he was “exposed to severe political persecution”. At least 100 pro-democracy figures have been arrested under the law.

Figures released on Friday show more than 10,200 people have been arrested over the mass protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019.

On Thursday, Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, said Law was a “criminal suspect wanted by the Hong Kong police”.

“We firmly oppose the harbouring of criminals in any form by any country, organisation or individual,” Zhao said. “If the UK openly endorses those seeking Hong Kong independence and shelters wanted suspects, it will constitute gross interference in Hong Kong’s judicial affairs and a breach of international law and basic norms governing international relations.”

Law is among a number of overseas figures wanted by Hong Kong authorities over alleged national security offences, as defined under the broad and widely criticised law imposed by Beijing that criminalised acts of dissent as secession, sedition, foreign collusion and terrorism.

Law first came to prominence during the 2014 “umbrella movement” before forming the now-disbanded Demosisto political party. He fled Hong Kong in late June, saying he left because he faced “unknown dangers” under the new law and because he had spoken to the US Congress about the crisis. His Demosisto co-founders, Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong, have since been jailed, as have dozens of other significant democracy figures and hundreds of civilian protesters as part of the deepening crackdown on all forms of opposition to Beijing’s rule.

Just a quarter of the 10,000 arrested over the 2020 protests – 2,521 people – have seen any judicial proceedings begin, according to statistics released by Hong Kong departments to legislators on Friday. Less than half of those cases have been completed, resulting in 614 convictions, 186 acquittals, and 50 withdrawals of charges, according to the South China Morning Post.

On Twitter, Law said he hoped his case would increase the UK Home Office’s understanding of the “complicated situation in Hong Kong”.

“Some may not have enough evidence to substantiate their claims due to lack of media reports or fleeing before the persecution. Fears over their claims being denied, most of them live in distress and anxiety.”