Self-exiled activist Ted Hui has stood by his appeal for Hongkongers to cast protest votes in the upcoming legislative elections in December. It came after the city’s anti-corruption watchdog urged people at home – and abroad – to abide by the law, adding that it will request social media platforms to remove offending posts.

In a Friday Facebook post, the ex-lawmaker called on Hongkongers to cast blank or invalid ballots in the upcoming legislative elections in protest at Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system and what he described as the curtailment of freedoms under the national security law.

election voting voters ballot box polls election committee 2021 sept 19
File Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“In the Legislative Council election, how can we fight against tyranny? With the enactment of the national security law and the regime’s frenzied suppression of civil society, Hong Kong people are not allowed to demonstrate and assemble; they are not allowed to form associations and operate organisations,” Hui – who now lives in Australia – wrote.

Obstructing or preventing people from voting is now criminalised in Hong Kong under the electoral overhaul. Calling on others to cast a blank or invalid ballot is punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine of up to HK$200,000.

“Over the past two years, the most frequent question I have received from Hongkongers is: What else can we do? My answer is still this: do whatever you can to resist.”

Hui’s plan of resistance aims to achieve the highest number of blank votes in the history of Hong Kong elections, and for blank votes to exceed the number of valid votes.

ted hui
Ted Hui. File Photo: May James/HKFP.

“Faced with the reality that, under the tyranny of the regime, Hong Kong people have very limited options for political mobilisation with substantial influence… The implementation of strategic voting is not aimed at ‘who is elected’ or ‘how many seats.’ Instead, we can use official blank votes to express our resistance to tyranny and our thirst for freedom. This is the greatest political mobilization we can actually achieve at the moment,” he wrote.

He dubbed his plan ‘Be Water,” in reference to the leaderless, spontaneous strategy protesters deployed during the 2019 pro-democracy protests to evade police.

In March 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure only “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

‘Combat election sabotage’

Following his post, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) issued a warning that inciting others to cast blank votes violated the city’s election laws, saying the regulations applied both in Hong Kong and abroad.

File photo: GovHK.

“The ICAC will take resolute enforcement actions to combat conducts manipulating and sabotaging the election, and will request the relevant social media platforms or websites to remove illicit contents. The Commission urges members of the public to abide by the law, and not to engage in illegal appeals or repost any unlawful contents in order to uphold a fair and clean election.”

Hui stood by his appeal. “I made a FB post advocating the use of blank/informal votes in protest against the CCP-manipulated Hong Kong parliamentary election. The HK authority called it illegal and asked FB to delete my post. What do you think the result will be?,” Hui tweeted following the warning.

His Facebook post was still available on Monday morning. HKFP has reached out to Facebook and the ICAC for comment.

The democrat, who fled the city last December under false pretences, faces over a dozen charges in Hong Kong relating to protests in 2019 and breaching bail conditions. He has since resettled in Australia.

Fifteen nominations were made for the upcoming legislative elections set for mid-December during the first day of nominations on Saturday. The nomination period will run until November 12.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.