Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau to monitor “anti-China” lawmakers and exiled individuals after shift in Economic and Trade Office’s work

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Regina Ip-lau

19th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) manager, Bill Yuen Chung-biu, along with two other individuals, Peter Wai Chi-leung and Matthew Trickett, have been charged under Britain’s National Security Act for allegedly aiding Hong Kong’s intelligence service. The trio appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday (HK time) and were granted bail. Their next court appearance is scheduled for May 24 at the Old Bailey. These charges come as a result of the UK’s efforts to combat foreign espionage by granting additional powers to its police force under the National Security Act, which was passed last year.

Bill Yuen Chung-biu, who currently served as the office manager of HKETO in London and is a retired Hong Kong police officer, finds himself at the centre of this legal dispute. However, it is important to note that he has not entered a plea at this stage of the proceedings.

Regina Ip Lau, the convenor of the Executive Council, addressed the situation during a radio program, emphasising that the nature of the HKETO’s work has changed. She stated that they would now be monitoring activities organised by Hong Kong’s exiled individuals in the UK and paying attention to the actions of “anti-China” lawmakers and Hong Kong exiles who engage in activities that target Hong Kong, including proposing motions against the city. Ip Lau believes that it is necessary for the HKETO to keep a close eye on these developments, as she considers the collection of information as part of their responsibilities. She also mentioned that diplomatic missions of various countries in Hong Kong are engaged in similar activities.

Regarding the charges brought against the three men, Ip Lau highlighted the broad scope of the U.K.’s National Security Act and called for solid evidence to support the accusations. She cited the Basic Law, which outlines the external work of the HKETO, and expressed her belief that there is no need for the Legislative Council to re-examine its functions.

Ip Lau further commented that the HKETO’s role has shifted from primarily lobbying members of the U.K. Parliament to a more diverse set of responsibilities. She pointed out that certain lawmakers and exiled Hong Kong individuals in the U.K. consistently target Hong Kong and even call for sanctions, necessitating the HKETO’s vigilance. Ip Lau emphasised that intelligence gathering involves monitoring these developments, including publicly available information, television programs, media reports, and online messages. She questioned why such activities would be considered illegal if they are carried out by HKETO personnel, expressing her confusion on the matter.

Ip Lau concluded by stating that if Sino-British relations were to return to a more positive track, the nature of the HKETO’s work could also evolve, potentially facilitating increased bilateral exchanges.