By-election candidate Au Nok-hin has accused his pro-Beijing rival Judy Chan of launching a “witch hunt” over a photo of him burning a copy of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s de facto constitution.
During a Now TV debate for the Hong Kong Island constituency on Wednesday night, Chan of the New People’s Party showed a photo of the pro-democracy politician burning a copy of the law as she criticised him for his political stance: “If you truly uphold the Basic Law, you would have no need to fear disqualification.”
Despite being widely seen as the “Plan B” for Demosisto party activist Agnes Chow, who was barred from running over her political affiliation, Au positions himself as a candidate supported by the entire pro-democracy camp.
During the debate, Au at first denied it was him in the photo, but later said he burned the Basic Law to oppose Beijing’s restrictive August 31, 2014 framework for the chief executive elections.
Afterwards, Au clarified that the photo was taken during a November 2016 protest to oppose Beijing’s Basic Law interpretation on lawmakers’ oath-taking.
“I was far away from Judy Chan, and the photo only showed my back – I was unable to clearly recognise the scene in the picture, so I mistakenly believed it was a photo of me burning the August 31 [framework],” he wrote on Facebook.
Au said he had no need to hide his past actions: “In November 2016, I burned Annex III of the Basic Law to protest the interpretation by the National People’s Congress – which unreasonably implemented national laws in Hong Kong – to mock the fact that Beijing has made the Basic Law’s Annex III obsolete through continuous interpretations.”
“This is not opposing the Basic Law – it is only an opposition to Beijing ignoring ‘One Country, Two Systems.’”
Activists commonly burn symbolic items during protests in Hong Kong. Au said he also burned papers containing the names of the Link Real Estate Investment Trust‘s contractors in a protest against Link.
“I have participated in social movements for more than ten years, and I have burned countless protest props,” he said. “Using a picture of burning protest props to smear me over my political stance is a downright witch hunt.”
Au asked if Chan agreed that all pan-democratic parties under the Civil Human Rights Front – which Au formerly led – should be barred from running if she thought the photo was a valid reason to disqualify him.
“Does the New People’s Party believe that no democrats should be allowed to run for the Legislative Council? This is a question Judy Chan should directly answer,” he said.
After the debate, Chan accused Au of lying about the photo during the debate.
“Having integrity is a basic requirement for a lawmaker – I hope voters will have clear eyes and not vote for candidates who lie a lot,” she said.
Other candidates in the constituency include Edward Yum and Ng Dick-hay.