Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law on Monday said he has applied for asylum in Britain, after fleeing in the wake of China’s new security legislation.
The 27-year-old founding member of Demosisto, a pro-democracy party that disbanded on the same day the law was imposed on the semi-autonomous territory, relocated to Britain in July.
“I’ve struggled with the question of whether I should stay in the UK for the long term, but I’ve now come to a decision –- an application for asylum in the UK has been submitted,” he said.
Law said he had left because of the new security law, which gave the government “sweeping powers to prosecute political dissidents in Hong Kong for speech crimes”.
“I decided to flee to where I could speak freely,” he wrote in The Guardian newspaper.
Britain has spoken out strongly against China’s crackdown on freedoms in its former colony, and earlier this month Law held his first formal meeting with a government minister in London.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is in charge of looking at relaxed entry rules for Hong Kongers holding British National (Overseas) passports, and said it “helps them to live free from political persecution”.
London has protested at jail terms handed to three other leading lights of Demosisto for taking part in huge democracy protests last year.
But it has so far held off from imposing financial and travel bans on Chinese and Hong Kong leaders, unlike Washington.
Yale-educated Law said he had decided not go to the United States because there was still a belief in Britain and the European Union that China could be a “strategic partner”.
“In the US, adopting an assertive approach to China and positioning it as one of the country’s greatest enemies is a bipartisan consensus now. This is not the case in the UK and EU; that consensus needs to be built,” he added.
“This is the reason why I boarded a plane destined for London,” he said, describing himself as a “political refugee”.
“I hope that my presence can sound an alarm to remind people just how much of a danger the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) poses to our shared democratic values.”
Law warned against seeing the economic benefits of closer ties with China, highlighting what he said was Beijing’s autocratic approach to human rights and free speech.