Hong Kong Activists Arrested After Entering U.S. Consulate

Three pro-democracy activists were arrested by Hong Kong police after briefly entering the U.S. consulate in the city on Tuesday in an apparent bid to seek asylum, according to a person familiar with the incident.

The person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information, didn’t provide further details. Officials at the U.S. consulate didn’t immediately respond to questions after normal business hours.

Hong Kong Activists Arrested After Entering U.S. Consulate

Hong Kong police said Tuesday they had arrested three people in the Central, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun areas for publishing content on a social media platform in September that “allegedly incited and abetted others to commit secession under the national security law.”

The police force didn’t provide further details on the arrests, and referred other media requests to the city’s Security Bureau, which didn’t immediately respond. Spokeswomen for the Hong Kong government and Chief Executive Carrie Lam didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment on Wednesday morning outside of normal office hours.

The South China Morning Post had earlier reported, citing unidentified people, that four Hong Kong activists had entered the local U.S consulate, hours after the arrest nearby of a former leader of a pro-independence group who was preparing to seek asylum. Later, the newspaper reported that the asylum bid had failed.

As policy, the U.S. doesn’t grant asylum in its diplomatic premises abroad. Earlier this year, the U.S. pursued a Chinese researcher accused of visa fraud charges who spent weeks hiding out in the country’s consulate in San Francisco before she was arrested.

The move comes at a time of increasingly fraught U.S.-China relations: The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on key officials after Beijing imposed a repressive national security law on Hong Kong, and recently added the financial hub to its refugee admission list for the first time. In July, the U.S. abruptly ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to shut down -- prompting Beijing to demand the closure of the American consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

The South China Morning Post reported that one of those arrested Tuesday was Tony Chung, former convenor of Hong Kong pro-independence group Studentlocalism, who was held by at least three police officers at a Pacific Coffee branch in Central.

The newspaper reported that it witnessed Chung, flanked by two men, being led away from the shop located within 50 meters (165 feet) of the consulate. The officers were from the police’s national security department, the paper cited a senior police source as saying. Chung was being detained at Central Police Station, the SCMP said.

Studentlocalism said Tuesday that three people arrested on Tuesday, including Chung, had accepted legal assistance.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday that he wasn’t aware of Chung’s situation.

“We support the judiciary in Hong Kong to engage in law enforcement and fulfill their duties in accordance with the law,” Wang told a daily briefing in Beijing.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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