A Hong Kong Activist, Nathan Law, Seeks Political Asylum in Britain

The prominent dissident fled to London shortly before a security law was imposed in Hong Kong. Affording him asylum would likely incense China.

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law said on Monday that he had applied for political asylum in Britain, a petition that will likely inflame tensions with China if granted.

Mr. Law, 27, fled to London in June, just before a new national security law gave Hong Kong sweeping powers to quash dissent after months of fiery anti-government protests.

Mr. Law rose to prominence in Hong Kong as a student leader in 2014, calling for freer elections in the semiautonomous Chinese territory through street demonstrations and sit-ins. Two years later, at age 23, he became the city’s youngest elected lawmaker, though he was disqualified the following year over altering his oath for office.

Mr. Law was jailed in 2017 on charges of inciting the street protests three years earlier. His close ally, Joshua Wong, was sentenced to more than a year in prison this month over a protest in 2019 and faces additional charges over his activism.

“I hope that my presence can sound an alarm to remind people just how much of a danger the C.C.P. poses to our shared democratic values,” Mr. Law wrote in an op-ed article announcing his asylum bid in The Guardian on Monday, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr. Law’s petition for asylum in Britain comes at a time when China is trying to forge new trade alliances with the United Kingdom and the European Union as its confrontational relationship with the United States is not expected to substantially improve under a Biden administration. The United States has imposed travel bans and economic sanctions on several high-level government officials over the continuing crackdown on the opposition in Hong Kong.

In July, Chinese state media accused Mr. Law and five other Hong Kong activists of colluding with foreign forces and listed them as fugitives wanted under the security law, which applies to offenses committed outside China. In October, the Hong Kong police issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Law over a June protest he attended before leaving the city.

Mr. Law, who did not disclose his location until weeks after leaving Hong Kong because of concerns for his safety, said that he was prepared for a life in exile and that he had cut ties with his family to avoid implicating them.

“Who can enjoy freedom from fear in the face of China’s powerful political machine?” he tweeted in July. “What we can choose is how to respond to this fear.”

As Hong Kong protesters fled the city, China warned other countries against offering asylum to what some officials described as “violent criminals.”

In October, China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, told Canadian officials to consider the “good health and safety” of Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong before granting asylum to Hong Kong protesters.

Despite China’s angry warnings, Britain has moved toward allowing nearly three million people from its former territory to live and work in the country on a path toward citizenship. Britain’s interior minister, Priti Patel, met with Mr. Law on Dec. 10 and promised to protect the freedoms of people from the former British colony.

Source: The New York Times

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