Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong has withdrawn a remark about legislator Eddie Chu’s capacity to help 12 activists detained in China once he leaves his post ahead of the interim legislature.

Beijing passed a decision last month to allow the city’s incumbent lawmakers to remain in office for at least one more year. It comes after the local authorities chose to postpone the 2020 Legislative Council election citing concerns over the coronavirus.

Helena Wong. Photo: LegCo.

Chu and Ray Chan of People Power earlier stated their wish to leave after the end of the regular four-year term.

Chu, the Democratic Party’s James To and activist Owen Chow held a press conference on Saturday urging mainland authorities to allow lawyers to access a dozen Hongkongers held under criminal detention in Shenzhen for allegedly crossing the border illegally. Guangdong Maritime Police intercepted their speedboat as it left Sai Kung for Kaoshiung in Taiwan on August 23. Andy Li, an activist arrested under the national security law, was on board, local media reported.

Wong left a comment on To’s Facebook post, reading: “If legislator Chu withdraws, he won’t be able to use his status as a lawmaker to assist the family of [the arrested persons]. If all democrats resign, should we ask the family members to seek help from pro-establishment lawmakers?” The comment prompted an outcry from democrats, with Chow responding directly, saying: “Does Owen Chow have a seat in the legislature?”

Eddie Chu. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Activist Joshua Wong, former secretary-general of the now-disbanded political group Demosisto, posted an Instagram story with a screenshot of Wong’s remark, next to a scene from the film “Spider-man: Homecoming” and a quotation reading: “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”

Wong backtracked on her comments later in a Facebook post, saying it was “inappropriate” to mix the two issues together. She apologised for potentially causing offence to family members of the detained activists. Her party also issued a parallel statement reiterating her apology.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying weighed in on the debate in a Facebook post with the hashtag “Taking advantage of other people’s suffering is in [their] nature.”

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Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.