Ex-lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, facing nine charges, left Hong Kong for Denmark for a ‘duty visit’ on bail, and on December 3 in a social media post he declared 'exile' and had withdrawn from Democratic Party.
Nathan Law Kwun-chung, another ex-lawmaker in exile, wrote in a post ‘we will be home together’; Hui’s fellows at Democratic Party Lam Cheuk-ting wrote ‘both of us will serve the great goal no matter where we are’, while Lo Kin-hei ‘take care, stick to your faith, and meet you at the "pot-bottom" (a term referring to the ground floor of the Legislative Council Complex; ‘meet you at the pot-bottom’ means ‘reunion of the freedom fighters’).
Talking to Stand News at the tenth day of his exile, Hui said that he goes into exile with his parents, wife and children to prevent them from being held hostages in Hong Kong. ‘With my beloved ones in a safe place, I can launch a high-profile fight [against the Hong Kong government], without reservations.’
Hui stressed that he is in ‘exile’, not an ‘emigrant’. ‘I would rather be an exile everywhere, waiting to be home. I have made up my mind, to go home after Hong Kong is liberated. We will embrace each other with tears at the "pot-bottom",’ he wrote in a social media post. Hui is now in Britain. He entered with a tourist visa and can only stay there for six months. But he makes it explicit that at this moment he does not intend to apply for a visa of another country or seek asylum. ‘I may stay at some place, but not for long. I will not have a sense of belonging there.’
His major consideration is: where and how he can speak out for Hong Kong in the most useful way.
Threats in Hong Kong and Going into Exile in Haste
Hui said, he did consider exile sometime before, but the decision came in a great hurry. ‘When situation in Hong Kong became so bad that no one can bear any more, can I pay a duty visit and do not come back?’
While he remained undetermined, he was given six more charges.
In November, Hui was charged with contempt under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance and obstructing officers of the Council during the execution of their duties when the National Anthem Ordinance was in its third reading in May, alongside with four other charges. With three more due to the 2019 Liberate Tuen Mun Park demonstration, Hui has totally nine charges against him, two of which may give him three-year sentence. Hui said the charges forced him to make up his mind. ‘I cannot survive in Hong Kong. I can only go abroad to do more meaningful things for Hong Kong.’
Hui was identified at Denmark on December 1. He said he was on a ‘duty visit’; he would come back to Hong Kong and would not seek asylum. Two days later, in a statement he confirmed his ‘exile’. After Anders Storgaard, former chairman of Young Conservatives of Denmark helping Hui to exile, disclosed the exile details, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam criticized Hui anonymously that he ‘lied to the court and ran abroad, violating the bail conditions.’
Hui stressed that when he had provided the itinerary to the court and police he was informed the duty visit would deal with climate change; he did worry whether he was well versed in this topic to discuss with the experts. It was not until he arrived at Denmark that he knew the itinerary was drastically changed. ‘I was simply speechless. I can’t even say whether they are smart or not. I knew nothing about it beforehand.’ After arriving in Denmark, and knowing that his family had safely made it to Britain, Hui decided to embark on an exile plan.
Hui’s going into exile on ‘duty visit’ has made some worries that politicians will be difficult to leave Hong Kong on this reason. Hui admitted that this case would give the court or police ‘an easy excuse to further tighten bail conditions.’ He had explicitly told Denmark not to act ‘too high-profile’. But he understands that as a politician he could not tighten the screws on them.
Staying with Beloved Ones and Fight without Reservation
Going into exile to Britain in June, ex-lawmaker Nathan Law declared cutting all relationship with his family; Baggio Leung Chung-hang, another ex-lawmaker, did the same after seeking asylum from the US in November.
In contrast, Hui brought all his family with him.
He said this would prevent his family from becoming hostages. ‘With my beloved ones in a safe place, I can launch a high-profile fight [against the Hong Kong government], without reservations.’ Since this September, Hui said, in the LegCo carpark there had been ‘probably cops or government people’ watching him anytime. There were also guys or cars tailing after him and his family in a threatening manner. This was white terror, and ‘they never mind you know [they are watching and following you].’
Hui is candid about his ‘huge anxiety’ about his family when they had not yet arrived in Britain but he had been in Denmark. He worried that ‘[my family] at the airport… the cops might cook up false charges and have them arrested.’
Not only his family. Hui will never cut off himself from people and things in Hong Kong.
‘I am a Hongkonger wherever I am. All Hong Kong’s people, things, cultures and land link up to me this or that way.’ He makes it explicit that ‘I will get hold of whoever in Hong Kong in the open’, and he does not care about government interception, because the Hong Kong government no longer needs any ‘easy excuse’ to make persecutions.
The HSBC, Hang Seng and Bank of China Hong Kong accounts owned by Hui, his wife and parents have ‘a suspicious cash flow of HK$850,000’, the police accuses. They were frozen, released and frozen again. Asked whether he will protest to the police through legal channels, Hui admitted that it was ‘very difficult’, as his status as a ‘councilor in exile’ would put ‘huge pressure’ on his lawyer. Moreover, most of the cash in the frozen accounts has now been remitted, so he would not consider legal actions at the moment. Hui stressed that all the donations to the crowdfund of 2.2 million last year went online directly to the bank account of solicitor Victor Yeung & Co, and it will not be withdrawn until the lawyer’s fee is paid.
Concerning police’s embezzlement accusation, Hui invites the police to publicly explain ‘where the suspicions are’. He questions that the police cooked up the story for the sake of ‘character assassination’. ‘This is just another blue-ribbon (pro-establishment supporter) story that you run away with the crowdfund.’
Elected representatives keep up influence abroad
Hui will be staying in Britain for a while, and in some months he will consider moving to another country. Priority is given to a Five Eye country such as the US or Australia.
Personal security is not his consideration in choosing a destination; rather it is what he can achieve there. He met Nathan Law at Britain some days before, after which he conceived that ‘we (Hui and Law) seemingly do not need to work together.’ To him, division of labor with his comrades-in-arms will augment the impact of international lobbying.
Hui now runs a Patreon account, and will work as a full-time international lobbyist. When meeting officials, he will demand sanctions to Hong Kong. He also aims at bringing the struggle strategies back to Hong Kong, ‘to talk something that we used to talk about…Raise an issue abroad, get it across back to Hong Kong, and enlighten the people there.’
In the week after Hui declared exile, at least twenty politicians in Hong Kong were arrested. Hui estimates that more Hongkongers, especially those well-known, will run away from Hong Kong. He hopes to connect them ‘to do something together and make some impact on Hong Kong.’
A photo Nathan Law took with Priti Patel, Home Secretary of Britain, showing an HKSAR flag in the background, is thought ‘provocative’ to HKSAR government, which considers Law ‘without any official title’. Hui laughs at the government’s ridiculousness. ‘I still have an official title. Will they find me agreeable?’
Now still a member of the Central and Western District Council, Hui’s councillorship may be disqualified when he fails to attend the meetings consecutively for four months. What will he do if he loses his district councillorship after he has quit as a lawmaker alongside with his fellow pan-democrat lawmakers? He is a ‘councilor in exile’, he said, but he does not care about this title. Whether he is a lawmaker, a district councilor, a Democratic Party member, and whether he is in Hong Kong or not, will make little difference to him. ‘Confidence of Hongkongers in us… will continue.’ Hui said he saw himself a public servant all the time, in all his activities, and he would perform an elected representative’s duty to monitor the government.
‘I have been a councilor all my life.’
Hui is frank that he does not quite understand international lobbying, and he is now mulling over it. He will visit MPs and British officials as well as local bodies that support Hongkongers, for formulating feasible actions such as promoting the sanctioning of the heads of HSBC and Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and stakeholders who have helped maintain the Chinese communist regime and suppress Hongkongers. He mentioned Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, who is deeply concerned about situations in Hong Kong. ‘Let’s see which country will lead this (sanction),’ he says, as he will keep on speaking out for Hong Kong.
Steve Li Kwai-wah, Senior Superintendent of National Security Department of Hong Kong Police Force, said Hui mentioned ‘connect with other places to continue doing something’ on his trip to Denmark, and his ‘international lobbying activities’ had constituted prima facie evidence of seeking international sanctions to Hong Kong. In response to these accusations, Hui said, ‘I don’t darn care about him.’ He manifests his contempt to the ‘Hong Kong communist regime’s’ unjust accusations, to which he disdains to respond as they no longer matter.