Five democracy protests in Hong Kong that reportedly fled to Taiwan have arrived in the United States with the intention of seeking asylum, an activist group said on Saturday.
Their flight follows the mass remains of democracy figures in Hong Kong under a new national security law that is part of a growing action by China against the financial hub.
The Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), a US-based group, said it had welcomed a group of young activists to America this week and their journey had been “difficult and dangerous”.
“The activists, all under the age of 30, took part in the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, faced protest-related arrests and accusations and fled the city by boat in July last year,” HKDC founder Samuel Chu told AFP.
“I am relieved and happy to welcome them to the United States and to help them in seeking asylum and a new life,” Chu added.
In a statement from HKDC, the five activists now in exile said their hearts were “filled with anxiety and all kinds of emotions” from the moment they left Hong Kong.
Taiwanese media in August reported that the five tried to flee to the autonomous island in late July and were intercepted by its authorities.
Officials in Taiwan have since kept a low profile on the matter and declined to comment.
Massive democracy protests
Following massive democracy protests over Hong Kong in 2019 in which more than 11,000 people were arrested, Beijing introduced a comprehensive national security law in late June to silence disagreement.
In August, another group of 12 Hong Kong activists, including one arrested under national security law, attempted to flee by motorboat to Taiwan but were arrested by Chinese coastguards.
Last month, a Chinese court arrested 10 of these 12 refugees for up to three years for “organizing and participating in an illegal border crossing.”
Chu said the five Hong Kongers could easily have disappeared at sea or met the same fate as “Hong Kong 12” without the help of eager supporters who provided protection and protection along the way.
“Their desperate efforts are an example of the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation and the growing humanitarian crisis in Hong Kong right now,” Chu said, adding that options for safe passage are limited.
At least 50 former Hong Kong protesters applied for asylum in various jurisdictions before the coronavirus pandemic ended most international travel last year. Hundreds of others have moved to democratic Taiwan.