Pro-Beijing lawmaker Eunice Yung has taken out a newspaper advertisement to announce that she is severing ties with her pro-democracy father-in-law. Her declaration came two days after the Hong Kong authorities “severely condemn[ed]” him for launching a committee to establish a “Hong Kong Parliament” with other overseas activists.

Eunice Yung Elmer Yuen statement
Lawmaker Eunice Yung announced she was severing ties with her father-in-law Elmer Yuen in a statement printed in Oriental Daily on August 5, 2022. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Yung took out a quarter-page advert in Chinese-language newspaper Oriental Daily on Friday to announce that she was cutting ties with her husband’s father, activist and businessman Elmer Yuen, who left Hong Kong several years ago.

“I, Eunice Yung, as a Chinese person with the blood of the great motherland flowing through my veins, on the premise of the righteous cause of the country and according to claims made by the National Security Department that Mr Elmer Yuen allegedly contravened the offence of subversion under the national security law, do hereby declare that I am breaking off in-law relations with Mr Elmer Yuen,” the advert read.

Security Bureau condemnation

The Security Bureau issued a statement on Wednesday accusing Yuen, ex-lawmaker-elect Baggio Leung and journalist Victor Ho of breaching the national security law for their role in forming a committee to establish a “Hong Kong Parliament.” Police “shall spare no efforts in pursuing the cases in accordance with the law in order to bring the offenders to justice,” the bureau added.

Yung shared the bureau’s statement on the same day, urging the public “not to test the law” and to cut ties with individuals or organisations that violated the national security legislation.

“Undoubtedly, ‘Hong Kong Parliament’ is an organisation that [aims to] subvert and destroy the Special Administrative Region government with no concern for the consequences,” her Facebook post read.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

‘Hong Kong Parliament’

Yuen, Leung and Ho founded The Hong Kong Parliament Electoral Organizing Committee in Canada last month, with the aim to hold the first election of the parliament in late 2023, according to a statement from the group.

“It is the Committee’s belief that only a genuine democratic election could literally [speak up] for the people Hong Kong,” the statement read.

Hong Kong Parliament
Press conference announcing the launch of the Hong Kong Parliament Electoral Organising Committee. Photo: Hong Kong Parliament, via video screenshot.

In response to an enquiry from HKFP, the Security Bureau said at the time that the security law has an “extraterritorial effect.”

“Any persons or entities who violate the [security law], regardless of their background, or where they are located, will be dealt with by the HKSAR Government in accordance with the law,” the bureau said, without elaborating on how the law would be enforced abroad.

Different political spectrums

The clash between Yung’s pro-Beijing stance and her father-in-law’s pro-democracy inclination has come under the spotlight multiple times, especially after protests against a proposed amendment to the extradition bill broke out in 2019, heightening social divisions.

Yung was at odds not only with her father-in-law, but with other members of the Yuen family who were pro-democracy. One of Yung’s sisters-in-law is Erica Yuen, former chair of People Power, once considered a more radical fraction of the democratic camp.

Elmer Yuen RTHK
Elmer Yuen said he would not blame Eunice Yung if she denounces him one day in an RTHK documentary. Photo: Screenshot via RTHK.

An RTHK programme from October 2020 previously documented the dynamics within the family, with Elmer Yuen saying the Chinese Communist Party would criticise Yung for not cutting ties with him.

“So if she does so one day, I wouldn’t blame her. I will take it easy if she denounces me,” he said in the show.

eunice yung derek yuen elmer yuen
Elmer Yuen (left) and New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip (centre) at the wedding of Derek Yuen (third from left) and Eunice Yung (third from right) on August 10, 2018. Photo: Regina Ip via Facebook.

Yung’s husband, scholar and political commentator Derek Yuen, told HKFP he knew about the statement beforehand but gave no further comment. Derek Yuen labelled himself as a centrist.

HKFP has reached out to Elmer Yuen for comment.

eunice yung derek yuen elmer yuen
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Eunice Yung is married to commentator Derek Yuen. Photo: Regina Ip via Facebook.

Yung was a barrister before she joined the pro-establishment New People’s Party in 2016, and later became a lawmaker. In a previous interview with HKFP, the pro-Beijing legislator dismissed comments of her being the “goddaughter of Sai Wan,” suggesting she was supported by the China Liaison Office in the Sai Wan district.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.