A Hong Kong court issued arrest warrants for two democrats in self-exile on Monday for allegedly advocating for others to boycott or cast blank votes in the upcoming legislative election.

Former lawmaker Ted Hui and ex-district councillor Yau Man-chun, both aged 39, are wanted by the city’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Former district councillor Yau Man-chun and former lawmaker Ted Hui
Former district councillor Yau Man-chun and former lawmaker Ted Hui. Photo: Facebook and May James/HKFP.

According to an ICAC press statement published on Monday, Hui faces four charges while Yau faces eight.

Hui made a Facebook post last month urging Hong Kong people to cast blank or invalid ballots in the Legislative Council election in December. His post is still available on the social media platform.

Yau also made Facebook posts in October and November asking people to boycott the “fake election.” In the post, he wrote “friendly reminder, if you are in Hong Kong, do not share.”

facebook voting
Photo: Facebook.

“The ICAC urges members of the public to abide by the law, and not to engage in making illegal appeals or report any unlawful contents in order to uphold a fair and clean election,” a press statement from the watchdog read.

Hui went into self-imposed exile last December under the false pretence of attending a conference in Denmark. He is facing over a dozen charges in Hong Kong over protests in 2019 and breaching bail conditions, and has since resettled in Australia.

Yau left Hong Kong in July after resigning as a district councillor. He has since resettled in the UK.

Protest voting

Anyone urging others to cast protest votes faces three years behind bars and fines of up to HK$200,000. The authorities have warned that the law applies globally.

When asked by HKFP to clarify whether casting protest votes themselves – allowed in most countries as a voter’s right – is legal or not, Chief Executive Carrie Lam dodged the question last Tuesday by repeating that inciting others not to participate in an election or lodging void votes is unlawful.

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She said the authorities will need to refer to the law and relevant evidence in each case, adding that it will be up to the city’s independent prosecutors to press charges and for the courts to make a judgement. “It could hardly be just you asking me a question and I would say that you have offended the law,” Lam told the press.

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “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.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.