CANBERRA: Former Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker and activist Ted Hui Chi-fung on Wednesday (Mar 10) said he has relocated to Australia where he will continue campaigning against the Chinese Communist Party.
The 38-year-old fled Hong Kong for Europe in December while he was free on bail on protest-related charges.
Hui thanked the Australian government for intervening so that he was allowed to travel from London to Australia this week on a flight that was repatriating Australian citizens.
Australia has limited the pandemic spread by denying permission for most people who are not Australian citizens or residents to enter the country.
“Honestly, it’s very hard to get here because of the border closure,” Hui told ABC.
“I actually couldn’t get any flights on the commercial market so I had to ask the Australian government for assistance and they were so kind for facilitating situations and they put me on the list and gave me the eligibility so that I could actually get on a repatriation flight with other Australians going home,” Hui added.
Hui arrived in Australia on a 12-month tourist visa on Tuesday and will remain in hotel quarantine for two weeks, The Australian newspaper reported.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hui was the only Hong Kong activist to be granted an exemption to enter Australia since the pandemic began, ABC reported.
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BEIJING'S ACT "RIDICULOUS": HUI
His arrival in Australia comes as 47 pro-democracy activists have been charged in Hong Kong with conspiracy to commit subversion under a new national security law, because they participated in an unofficial primary last July to select the strongest candidates for a legislative council election.
Hui, a member of the legislative council since 2016, was preselected to represent Hong Kong island for the election.
He said it had been painful to watch in the past week as his close colleagues were jailed after being denied bail in marathon hearings in the subversion case.
"As a participant in the primary election and a winner, I see it as a ridiculous act and unreasonable for the regime to put any accusation on us when it was totally peaceful," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"It is only because it is against Beijing's will that people are thrown into jail."
Hui said he decided to move to Australia from Britain, where he has spent the past three months, to spread the international reach of the pro-democracy activists.
"I feel more responsible now as an exile to tell the world how ridiculous it is," he said.
Hui said during the interview that the coronavirus pandemic was stable in Australia, and he would be able to undertake face-to-face lobbying work.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday announcing his move, Hui said that Australia and New Zealand are important members of the Five Eye intelligence sharing group that also includes the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, which have endorsed the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
"I hope that my lobbying work will make the two countries tougher against China, have stronger support and actions towards the freedom of Hong Kong," he said in the post.
As part of his lobbying, Hui told Reuters he would also seek more flexible visas for Hong Kong people seeking to come to Australia.
He also said he did not intend to apply for political asylum.
Australia's home affairs office said it did not comment on individual cases.
"A FUGITIVE FROM THE LAW"
Jane Poon, a representative of pro-democracy community group Australia Hong Kong Link, said Hui's arrival would encourage Australia's large Hong Kong community.
"He would be able to contribute a lot in lobbying work, especially as Australia has been a main battlefield against the (Chinese Communist Party)," Poon told Reuters.
Hong Kong police ordered HSBC to freeze Hui's bank accounts in December after he said he would go into exile in Britain to continue his pro-democracy activities.
Hong Kong-based Australian lawyer Antony Dapiran said Hui’s move to Australia would be welcomed by Hong Kong dissidents and condemned by Beijing.
Dapiran, who is not representing Hui, said the activist was facing several charges in Hong Kong and was being investigated under the sweeping national security law that Beijing had imposed on the special administrative region in response to massive and sometimes violent rallies in 2019.
"So from Beijing’s point of view, he is a fugitive from the law as they would see it and they would see Australia as not only interfering in the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong but also of harbouring a fugitive from the law,” Dapiran said.