Arrests for espionage chill Hong Kong’s thriving British community – Generic English

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This month, three men were charged in London with gathering intelligence for Hong Kong and forcing entry into a British residence. While the men have not yet been found innocent or guilty – the trial won’t begin until February – news of the arrests has highlighted concerns among many activists about China’s ability to surveil and harass its citizens abroad, particularly those who have been critical of the government.

A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday denounced what it called “false accusations” and “cowardly actions” by British authorities in accepting the case. Last week, one of the accused men, a former British marine called Matthew Trickett, was found dead in a park while on bail. The death was classified as “unexplained” by police, which in Britain refers to unexpected deaths whose cause is not immediately clear, including suicide. During Mr Trickett’s first court appearance, the prosecutor alleged that Mr Trickett had attempted to take his own life after being charged.

Anxiety over the arrests has spread to the wider Hong Kong diaspora in Britain, even among those who are not politically active.

“You might expect something like this to happen, but it’s still so surreal,” said Cheng, speaking from the central London office of Hong Kongers in Britain, an organization he founded to help new arrivals. Pinned to his sweater was a bright yellow umbrella, a symbol of the pro-democracy demonstrations that filled the streets of Hong Kong in 2014 and again in 2019.

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