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Explainer: Why UK authorities arrested 3 men linked to Hong Kong’s trade office

HKFP looks at the accusations made against a Hong Kong trade office manager, a London police officer, and a security contractor in the UK. How did the arrests put the de facto consulate in the spotlight? And how has Hong Kong’s political sphere reacted to the incident?

Explainer by James Lee – 18 May 2024

 The arrests of three men connected to a Hong Kong government trade office in London marked the first time Hongkongers have been prosecuted under the UK’s new national security legislation. Designed to combat espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and foreign interference, the UK security law was introduced amid rocky relations with China.

 HKFP looks at the accusations made against a trade office manager, a London police officer, and a security contractor; how the move has placed Hong Kong’s London-based trade office in the spotlight; and how Hong Kong’s political sphere has reacted to the allegations.

 Who are the three arrestees?

 Three men have been charged with violating the UK’s 2023 National Security Act by assisting a foreign intelligence service and engaging in foreign interference on behalf of Hong Kong.

 Bill Yuen, Peter Wai, and Matthew Trickett, were arrested in early May after allegedly attempting to break into the home of a British National (Overseas) passport holder who left Hong Kong last December — an act that amounted to prohibited conduct under the foreign interference offence.

They are also accused of participating in “information gathering, surveillance and acts of deception, that [were] likely to materially assist a foreign intelligence service carrying out UK-related activities” between December 20, 2023 and May 2, 2024.

The trio appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Monday and were granted bail pending the next hearing on May 24, British media reported.

Bill Yuen, 63, is an officer manager at the London Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO), according to the government’s directory, as well as a retired Hong Kong police officer. He is accused of tasking Wai and Trickett with conducting surveillance operations and the home break-in.

The other two defendants in the case are understood to be British law enforcement officers.

Wai, 38, is a UK Border Force Officer based at Heathrow Airport in London, and a Special (part-time volunteer) Constable with the City of London police. He is also understood to be the director of a private security firm registered in the UK called D5 Security Consultancy Limited.

Wai has “over 20 years’ experience in the British military, police and private security sector,” according to its website. It also says “the majority of [its] staff have extensive backgrounds in the British Military and Police.”

Peter Wai also held directorate positions at six other companies, according to the Webb-site database run by activist investor David Webb.

Matthew Trickett, 37, is an immigration enforcement officer and also a director of another security firm called MTR Consultancy that focuses on security, surveillance and private investigations.

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undertaking prohibited conduct under the foreign interference offence.