Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Fergus Leung has resigned as a district councillor, after being held in detention for over two months pending trial under the national security law.

According to the Central and Western District Council website on Tuesday, the democrat – who turned 24 last month – ended his term last Friday. Leung’s office in Kennedy Town appeared to be empty when an HKFP reporter visited on Wednesday. A sign on the door read: “The office has stopped operation since May 1,” and told residents to seek assistance from other district councillors instead.

Fergus Leung
Fergus Leung. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Banners featuring Leung that were hung on roadsides in the area have been taken down as well.

The democrat is among a group of 47 facing allegations of “conspiracy to commit subversion,” in connection with an unofficial legislative primary election last July. His resignation came after he had been in custody since early March, when the court only granted bail to 11 of the defendants awaiting trial.

The city’s biggest national security case yet involves high-profile pro-democracy figures including media tycoon Jimmy Lai and jailed activist Joshua Wong. Among the 47 suspects, 23 were district councillors and eight of them were released on bail. So far, in addition to Leung, Gary Fan, Lam Cheuk-ting, Kinda Li and Roy Tam have quit the district councils while in detention.

Fergus Leung
Fergus Leung’s office in Kennedy Town appears to be empty on when an HKFP reporter visited on May 5, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, the Home Affairs Department confirmed they received Leung’s resignation letter. The spokesperson said the department head will issue a public notice 21 days after a district councillor steps down, in accordance with section 32 of the District Councils Ordinance.

Legislative primaries

Leung took part in the 2019 District Council election as an unaffiliated political novice and defeated a candidate from the pro-Beijing party DAB by 225 votes to win the Kwun Lung constituency. The election that year marked a historic landslide victory by the pro-democracy camp, which currently controls 17 of the 18 district councils.

Ahead of the national security charge in late February, Leung also faced a looming disqualification alongside Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Tat Cheng. The government said the four would “in theory” be unseated once a new oath-taking requirement for public officers, including district council members, is passed.

47 democrats
(From left to right) Henry Wong, Fergus Leung and Gordon Ng being transferred onto a Correctional Services Department vehicle on March 19, 2021. Photo: Stand News.

The authorities ruled last year that Leung, Shum, Yuen and Cheng had no “genuine and truthful” intention to pledge allegiance to the HKSAR, when they tried to stand in the now-postponed legislative election.

At least three district councillors have announced that they would leave their posts rather than take the impending oath. The oath-taking requirement – seen by democrats as a way to stamp out their influence in the government – is expected to become law by June. Those deemed to have breached the vow could face a five-year election ban.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.