BEIJING – China has quietly detained a group of Hong Kong residents, including at least three British citizens, and begun to prosecute them on espionage charges. The crackdown may signal a new push to enact the stringent security bill that prompted huge demonstrations in the territory last year before it was withdrawn.
One of the British citizens, Chan Yulam, 53, a businessman and former official in the mainland’s representative office in Hong Kong, has been accused of spying for Britain between 1988 and 1995, when the territory was still a British colony.
Prosecutors have argued Chan violated Chinese law by discussing the1989 Tiananmen Square
massacre with a British agent and by giving the agent phone numbers for a Chinese investment firm and the local branch of the New China News Agency, Beijing’s de facto embassy in Hong Kong before the 1997 handover.
Chan’s trial comes as China’s ruling Communist Party is stepping up its verbal attacks against the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong, which succeeded in forcing the government to withdraw the internal security bill and is now pressing Beijing to allow elections to choose the aterritory’s next chief executive.