An online campaign which called on people not to vote for candidates who failed to join an unofficial legislative primary poll would have violated the city’s election laws, a former politician has said at a high-profile national security trial involving 47 pro-democracy figures.

andrew chiu
Ex-district councillor Andrew Chiu. File photo: Andrew Chiu, via Facebook.

A voting strategy known as “Say No to Primary Dodgers” would have posed “obstacles” for some pro-democracy election hopefuls during the Legislative Council election originally scheduled for September 2020, ex-district councillor Andrew Chiu told a panel of three handpicked judges overseeing the case on Tuesday. Such obstacles would have amounted to contravention of the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, he said.

Chiu is among four of the 47 democrats who agreed to testify for the prosecution against their peers.

Accusations against the campaign put forward by activist Gordon Ng, better known by his online pseudonym “Lee Bak Lou,” emerged on day 40 of a lengthy trial of 16 democrats who denied the charge of conspiracy to commit subversion. Those convicted face up to life imprisonment under the Beijing-enacted national security law.

Together with 31 co-defendants who pleaded guilty earlier, the group stand accused of planning to gain a legislative majority and use their powers as lawmakers to indiscriminately veto bills, whilst forcing the chief executive’s resignation and a government shutdown. Most were detained for almost two years awaiting trial.

  • 47 democrats pleaded not guilty 1
  • 47 democrats pleaded not guilty 2
  • 47 democrats pleaded guilty 1
  • 47 democrats pleaded guilty 4
  • 47 democrats pleaded guilty 2
  • 47 democrats pleaded guilty 3
  • Prosecution witnesses 47 democrats post

Had the election not been delayed for over a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the alleged conspiracy would have been “carried out to fruition” and gravely affected the city’s stability and people’s livelihood, prosecutors claimed when the trial began in early February.

Primary results

On Tuesday, Chiu testified for the prosecution that he did not know the identity of Lee Bak Lou until the democrats were brought to court for the first time in March 2021. The former convenor of Power for Democracy, a defunct political group that helped execute the primaries, said he had concerns after reading the views expressed by the activist, who was using an alias.

Ng asked voters not to cast their ballots for three types of candidates, including those who were opposed to the holding of the unofficial primaries, those who did not join the primaries, and those who refused to abide by the results of the primaries. Chiu said the activist mentioned how legal scholar Benny Tai – the main organiser of the primaries and a key figure in the case – had supported his views.

Such calls gave the impression that Ng was among the organisers of the primaries, Chiu said. It contradicted the testimony of the first accomplice witness – Au Nok-hin – who told the court last month that he never regarded Ng as part of the organising team.

Chiu went on to say that candidates should “voluntarily” choose to be bound by the outcome of the primaries, meaning those who lost would not enter the official election.

“Because, according to Hong Kong’s election legislation, anyone has the right to participate or not participate [in an election],” Chiu said. “The campaign promoted by Lee Bak Lou… was a form of support for the winners of the primaries. The three types of not voting he mentioned would hinder those who wanted to run in the election.”

Gordon Ng
Pro-democracy activist Gordon Ng, better known as “Lee Bak Lou.” File photo: Legco Petition YouTube screenshot.

High Court Judge Andrew Chan asked Chiu if he objected to Ng’s voting campaign because it “undermined the freedom of people to run in elections. The former politician replied: “Yes, because it breached the Election Ordinance.”

Chiu claimed that, when Tai was asked about Ng’s role and capacity in the primaries, the ex-associate law professor said that the activist was among his “fans.” It echoed the prosecution’s earlier assertion that the Ng was a “supporter” of Tai. Chiu also claimed that the legal scholar said that Ng had assisted him in his past projects, such as the strategic 2016 voting plan, ThunderGo.

Prosecutors alleged earlier that Ng explained how the voting campaign would act as a “separate entity to support the primary election” and would help save money on publicity. Ng was said to have promoted the plan on his Facebook page and YouTube channel, as well as published a series of articles on online media outlets including InMedia and the defunct Stand News. He also placed a front-page advertisement in the shuttered newspaper Apple Daily to advocate for the primaries and the campaign.

Tai did not share concerns that Ng’s calls may be in breach of the city’s election laws, Chiu said, but the legal scholar had reminded the activist to be more careful with his promotions after speaking with the ex-district councillor.

Chiu will continue his testimony as the second accomplice witness on Wednesday. He is set to face cross-examination by the defence after the prosecution concludes their questioning.

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.

Support HKFP  |  Code of Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report

YouTube video
contact hkfp

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.