Police stated two males and one girl — between 17 and 21 years outdated — have been arrested Tuesday in relation to allegedly secessionist feedback on social media.

Studentlocalism, a onetime pro-independence group, recognized the three on Fb as its former convenor Tony Chung, and former members William Chan and Yanni Ho.

In accordance with just a little identified United Kingdom-based activist group, Associates of Hong Kong, which stated it had been working with Chung, he had been planning to assert asylum on the US consulate to Hong Kong previous to his arrest.

All three Studentlocalism members have been beforehand arrested in July in reference to posts made on social media by a web page claiming to signify the worldwide arm of the group.

The Hong Kong department of the group stated it had disbanded quickly after the nationwide safety regulation was imposed on the town by Chinese language authorities, banning secession, subversion and collusion with overseas forces.

Police accused Chung and others nonetheless primarily based in Hong Kong of continuous to advocate for the town’s independence from China, a criminal offense that carries with it a sentence of three to 10 years, or as much as life imprisonment for offenses of a “grave nature.” The accused denied having any connection to the allegedly secessionist posts in query.

Security guards are seen outside the US consulate in Hong Kong on October 27, 2020.

A Hong Kong authorities spokesman advised CNN on Wednesday that it will not touch upon media reviews of the arrests however stated there could be “no justification for any so-called ‘political asylum’ for folks in Hong Kong.”

“It ought to be pressured that individuals in Hong Kong are prosecuted for acts in contravention with the legal guidelines of Hong Kong, no matter their political opinions or backgrounds. Furthermore, trials are carried out by an impartial judiciary in accordance with the precept of the rule of regulation,” he added.

A rising variety of Hong Kongers have efficiently utilized for asylum abroad because the nationwide safety regulation was handed earlier this yr. Washington has stated it’s going to prioritize refugees from Hong Kong, and US politicians have been among the many most vocal in criticizing China’s ongoing crackdown on the town’s autonomy and democratic freedoms.

Offering refuge to activists inside Hong Kong itself could be a serious escalation nevertheless, and will trigger a diplomatic firestorm for each Washington and Beijing, probably imperiling the way forward for the Hong Kong consulate itself.

CNN has reached out to the US Consulate Common in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Workplace for remark.

In accordance with US regulation, Washington “doesn’t grant asylum in its diplomatic premises overseas.” These looking for to assert refugee standing should be current within the US to take action. Whereas prior to now some activists have been granted safety by the US Embassy in Beijing, this has been exceptionally uncommon, and every time precipitated main political complications for Washington.
In 1989, following the crackdown on Tiananmen Sq., dissident educational Fang Lizhi fled to the US Embassy, the place he spent over a yr earlier than Beijing agreed to permit him to go away China. In 2012, authorized activist Chen Guangcheng, after months underneath home arrest, made a dramatic break for the embassy throughout a go to to Beijing by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He too was finally permitted to go away the nation, after tense negotiations between US and Chinese language officers.
When disgraced former police chief Wang Lijun sought refuge on the US consulate in Chengdu that very same yr, nevertheless, he was turned away. Wang was finally sentenced to 15 years in jail on corruption fees.
The distinction between an embassy and a consulate could also be key. Embassies are protected underneath worldwide regulation, and to shut one or enter the premises would spark a serious diplomatic disaster. Consulates, nevertheless, are much less protected, and nations can order for them to cease operations, because the US and China each did earlier this yr with tit-for-tat closures of every nation’s respective missions in Houston and Chengdu.
Throughout that incident, which got here after Washington claimed China’s Houston consulate was implicated in espionage operations, US officers additionally accused Beijing’s mission in San Francisco of harboring a fugitive Chinese language scientist. That scientist, Tang Juan, later surrendered to police in California.

The circumstances round Tang’s give up stay unclear, however it could have been prompted by fears the US might have moved to shut the San Francisco consulate if she had continued to shelter inside. Related considerations might make US officers shrink back from granting any refuge to dissidents in Hong Kong, an important US mission in better China after the Beijing embassy.

Throughout the consulate stand off earlier this yr, some Chinese language state media publications referred to as for the Hong Kong consulate to be closed, accusing the US of working affect operations out of it. Whereas Beijing seems to have shied away from any better escalation for now, dropping the Hong Kong mission could be a serious blow for Washington, each diplomatically and virtually, given the financial significance of Hong Kong and the variety of People who stay within the metropolis.