Beijing hits back at the US for its “desecration” of the rule of law in Hong Kong after the country accused the city’s authorities of harassing families of wanted activists.

Beijing’s comments came after the US State Department on Friday accused Hong Kong authorities of “ongoing harassment” against family members of the activists.

The country’s statement named five individuals wanted by Hong Kong police and an activist imprisoned in the city, whose family members and acquaintances have been detained and questioned by the officers.

They are Anna Kwok Fung Yi, Elmer Yuan Gong Yi, Denise Kwok Wing Hang, Christopher Mong Siu Tat, Nathan Le Kwon Chung and Joshua Wong Chi Fung, who is behind bars.

“This deliberate campaign to intimidate and silence individuals for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms is another step in the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong,” said department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Fugitive former Hong Kong politician Ted Hui is working as a lawyer in Australia

Hong Kong authorities earlier issued their own response, replying that the US was trying to “demonize” the city’s national security officers.

A city government spokesperson on Saturday stressed that the law enforcement actions taken by the police’s National Security Department were “reasonable, rational, lawful and indeed necessary”.

Speaking ahead of his official trip to Vietnam and Singapore, Security Minister Chris Tang Bing Keong on Sunday reiterated the government’s position and noted that the United States itself has “more than 20 laws related to national security.”

“Why are you allowed to protect your national security, but when the Hong Kong officers try to do the same, you attack us?” He said.

Fugitive and former Hong Kong politician Ted Hui was recently accepted as a barrister in South Australia. Photo: Facebook/Ted Hoy

Other activists wanted by the police, who also have a HK$1 million ($127,487) reward for their heads over alleged national security offenses, include Ted Hui Chi Fung, who recently became a lawyer in Australia after fleeing the city in 2020.

Hong Kong lawmaker Junius Ho Kuan Yew on Friday proposed a mutual response to Australia’s decision to accept Hui as a lawyer.

“How can our judiciary turn a blind eye and keep Australian judges on the final court of appeal?” He said.

Four of the 11 non-permanent foreign judges of the Hong Kong High Court are from Australia, including Justice Patrick Kane, the only foreign judge appointed after the national security law imposed by Beijing came into effect.

Ahead of his appointment in 2023, Kane, a former Australian High Court judge, said foreign judges should not “clear the field” because of the security law.

Hong Kong’s Justice Minister Paul Lam Teng Kok on Saturday rejected Ho’s proposal to dismiss the Australian judges.

He noted that the practice of appointing foreign judges to the Supreme Court stems from Article 82 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

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“This arrangement is very important for Hong Kong to strengthen (its status as an international legal centre),” he said at the end of an official visit to Beijing.

“Every non-permanent judge who has been appointed in the more than 20 years since the city’s handover has an outstanding international reputation. In fact, they have been very helpful in enhancing the reputation of Hong Kong’s legal system.

Hong Kong was handed over from British rule to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hui, 41, left the city while on bail awaiting trial on charges related to anti-government protests in 2019, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill. The former legislator left the Democratic Party and eventually settled with his family in Australia, where he continued his law studies.

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After the South Australian High Court decided Hoy was qualified to act as a solicitor, Lam confirmed that the former opposition MP had been convicted of public assault and contempt of court.

“(He) submitted false documents to the court, which prompted the court to ease the bail conditions that enabled him to flee abroad. I think people have a fair judgment on this person’s character.”

Police in the city recently arrested family members and acquaintances of the wanted activists for questioning.

Among the most notable incidents was the raid on the Luo family home, where his parents and older brother were briefly detained and interrogated.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Eunice Young-Hui Yan and her husband Derek Yuen-Mei Chang, Yuan’s son, were also questioned in late July.

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