Former lawmaker Ted Hui – who fled Hong Kong in December while on court bail – has left Britain for Australia in what he has described as a bid to expand international lobbying efforts on behalf of the city’s pro-democracy movement.
The ex-Democratic Party politician announced his arrival in Australia on Facebook during the early hours on Tuesday and in interviews with HKFP he said he was keeping his exact location private until further notice ”due to safety reasons”, adding that he has not applied for political asylum.
The 38-year-old – who spoke to HKFP prior to leaving London’s Heathrow Airport and shortly after his arrival in Australia – said he “took in many considerations” before making the move. Among them he said were strategies for advocacy work and the long-term development of his family. Hui’s wife, his son and daughter have been in exile with him since he fled Hong Kong three months ago.
“I believe it is important for Hong Kong exiles like me to be in different parts of the world, in different continents,” Hui said.
The opposition figure has been in Britain since early December, after he fled Hong Kong on November 30, 2020 on an ”official” visit to Denmark, purportedly for a climate change conference. A Danish politician later revealed the conference had been fabricated to secure permission from the Hong Kong courts for him to leave the city while facing multiple criminal charges, some linked to the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests.
The democrat said relocating to Australia was the result of a “division of labour,” as he decided to leave the advocacy work in the UK and Europe to another exiled democrat Nathan Law, who fled Hong Kong last June because of the national security law.
“As a tactic, I feel I’m more needed here and I will be more useful here,” Hui said, adding he felt more protected to remain in a country which is part of the ”Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.
Pro-establishment lawmakers in Hong Kong mocked Hui’s move to Australia. Horace Cheung of the DAB, the largest pro-Beijing party in Hong Kong, shared an edited photo of Hui on social media with a caption that read: “Be a backpacker and enjoying life.”
“[Hui] said he would be wherever people need him, why are you not coming back to Hong Kong when it needs people?” Cheung wrote on Facebook.
In a phone interview with HKFP on Tuesday, Hui thanked the Australian authorities for granting a visitors’ visa to him and his family and exempting them from the country’s strict Covid-19 border restrictions for “family reasons.” The Australian government also offered them seats on a repatriation flight, after the former legislator had difficulty finding a commercial flight from London to Australia. Hui said he had paid for the airfare.
Upon completion of his two-week compulsory Covid-19 quarantine, Hui said he will meet with some members of the parliament in person or online. He declined to name which politicians, however, saying he would need their approval. Hui added he has not scheduled a meeting with Australian government officials.
Asked what issues he planned to bring up at the meetings, Hui said: “Of course all human rights violations on part of Beijing and Hong Kong regimes… whether sanctions are possible and a less reliant approach on trade with Beijing and lifeboat plans that may cover more Hong Kong people.”
The Hong Kong authorities have prosecuted media tycoon Jimmy Lai for allegedly committing foreign collusion by calling for overseas sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials. The sweeping national security legislation under which Lai is being prosecuted also outlaws secession, subversion and terrorism and was imposed by Beijing on June 30 last year.
The semi-autonomous region saw its largest national security case to date come to court last week when 47 pro-democracy figures appeared for “conspiracy to commit subversion” in connection with an unofficial legislative primary election last July. Hui, who had left Hong Kong before the mass arrests in January, was among the candidates who stood in democratic camp primary elections deemed illegal under the new laws.
Hui added while his family may stay in Australia for a longer term, he has plans to continue visiting other countries for lobbying and advocacy work.
“[I]t’s not my determination to settle anywhere in the world because my only home is Hong Kong… as the spirit in the movement, so whenever Hongkongers are needed, I will be there.”
Additional reporting: May James.