The West Should Learn From Hong Kong’s ‘Painful Lessons’ With the CCP: HK Lawmaker in Exile

'If those who enjoy freedom don't speak out, then no one else can'
March 11, 2021 Updated: March 12, 2021

Self-exiled former Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui has warned that Western nations need to heed the lessons of Beijing’s takeover of the city, saying despite the many extensive trade ties to China, democratic nations had to see through the façade and take firmer action against the tyrannical regime.

Motivated by a desire for Hong Kongers to be free while ignoring potential risks to his safety, Hui is in Australia hoping to galvanise support for his people, and is due to meet local parliamentarians and Hong Kong community members to accelerate efforts at developing a safety net for those fleeing the communist crackdown in the former British colony.

“I feel a responsibility to speak up for them because if those who enjoy freedom don’t speak out, then no one else can,” he told The Epoch Times in an exclusive interview.

Former pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-Fung
Former pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-Fung appears outside West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts in Hong Kong, China Nov. 19, 2020. (Lam Yik/Reuters)

As a safety precaution, Hui prefers to keep his whereabouts in Australia a secret.

He said it was now “crystal clear” that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was willing to breach international laws and that Western political and business leaders needed to stop placing trust in the regime.

“If you look at Hong Kong’s situation, we were promised a high degree of autonomy, ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ a gradual progression towards democracy, and an independent judiciary,” he said. “These promises are now empty promises.”

“You can see people are thrown in jails, and it is basically ‘One Country, One System’ now. It has become another Mainland Chinese city. What’s the point believing Beijing will uphold its international obligations?” he added.

“I think these are the painful lessons that Hong Kongers have learned, and I wish the West and free countries can learn from them too.”

Epoch Times Photo
Pro-democracy legislator Ted Hui (C) is removed by security guards after throwing a jar containing a foul-smelling liquid onto the floor during a debate on a law that bans insulting China’s national anthem at a session of the Legislative Council (Legco) in Hong Kong on June 4, 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

The call comes as some prominent Australians continue to push the Morrison government to be more subdued in its response to the CCP’s trade dispute with Australia and human rights violations.

“There is an opportunity for some diplomacy and probably a bit more behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations,” Elizabeth Gaines, CEO of Fortescue Metals, told the Australian Financial Review Business Summit earlier this week.

On this issue, Hui said despite China being a lucrative market for business, ultimately, there was a “contradiction” between the CCP’s Marxist ideology and the liberal democratic values of the free world, including “freedom, democracy, and universal values like human rights.”

The Gradual Erosion of Hong Kong’s Autonomy

Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration Treaty, which is registered with the United Nations, Hong Kong was to maintain a democratic governance model for a 50-year period until 2047.

However, since the handover of Hong Kong to the CCP in 1997, this framework has been steadily eroded, despite repeated assurances from communist leaders.

In recent years, Beijing has taken a more overt stance, introducing two laws that not only sparked millions-strong protests but ushered in the death-knell for Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Epoch Times Photo
An anti-extradition bill protester is detained by riot police during skirmishes between the police and protesters outside Mong Kok police station, in Hong Kong, on Sept. 2, 2019. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

The 2020 National Security Law, which was passed without the Hong Kong legislature’s approval, gave the CCP the authority to crack down on activities it deemed could “split the country, subvert state power, organize and carry out terrorist activities.”

A wide interpretation of the law effectively gave the CCP free rein to target pro-democracy activists or groups and overrule local governing bodies.

Beijing has exploited the law to tighten its grip over the city, arresting several lawmakers and pro-democracy activists, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Galvanising Australia’s Response to the Crisis

Ted Hui’s visit to Australia is centred around three goals.

First, Hui hopes to accelerate the government’s rollout of Magnitsky-style legislation that would give Australia the authority to place sanctions on specific human rights abusers and family members.

This would effectively hamstring their ability to travel or move wealth to Australia.

For Chinese officials, it could be a major deterrent to breaching international human rights laws, as a high proportion of high-net-worth Chinese have long term plans to leave China, with the United States, Canada, and Australia traditionally being the most popular destinations.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other officials applaud after the vote on the national security legislation for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on May 28, 2020. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Second, Hui will push Australia to continue diversifying its trade relationship away from China. A trend that was sparked by last year’s trade war that was instigated by Beijing in response to Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Australian wine, barley, and salmon industries are beginning to see the fruits of diversifying away from China.

“Finally, I’m here lobbying for more concrete plans for those who face persecution and need to flee Hong Kong urgently,” Hui said.

In response to the crackdown on Hong Kong protestors, the Australian government last year granted five-year visa extensions to all Hong Kong students or skilled visa holders in the country.

Supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters hold placards during a demonstration as part of the global “anti-totalitarianism” movement in Sydney on Sept. 29, 2019. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

Hui, however, called for more clarity around whether those visa extensions could result in permanent residency.

A sentiment echoed by Independent Senator Rex Patrick, who said in February, “In these circumstances, Australia must open our door wider to give our Hong Kong friends refuge, safety, and full opportunity to enjoy democratic freedoms.”

Ultimately, stronger action would send a “clear message” to Beijing that Australia and democratic nations would not compromise its values, according to Hui.

He conceded however that it was “too early” to make a judgement on U.S. President Joe Biden’s stance on Hong Kong and whether his administration would remove the Trump-era sanctions placed on Chinese officials involved in cracking down on pro-democracy activists.

Determined to Return Home After Tyranny is Extinguished

Hui has been a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council since 2016.

In November, he resigned along with 18 other pan-democracy lawmakers who protested the Hong Kong government’s decision to disqualify four pro-democracy legislators.

Hui decided to leave Hong Kong in December for Denmark and the United Kingdom, spending the past three months lobbying parliamentarians and human rights activists.

CCP officials meanwhile have issued repeated warnings to the Australian government to “stop meddling” in Hong Kong’s affairs. Otherwise, the China-Australia relationship would “sustain further damage.”

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks during a news conference at Australian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 10, 2019. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

The CCP has also taken direct measures to intimidate and threaten local dissidents, with some fearing to speak out against the regime due to potential reprisals against family members in China.

When asked how he felt about possible repercussions, Hui responded, “No, I have no fears.”

“Nothing is more terrible than being teargassed, pepper-sprayed, and beaten with police batons. Nothing is more fearful than losing your freedom at any moment when the police come after you and can jail you for decades,” he said.

Hui has ruled out any immediate return to Hong Kong, saying he would likely be “arrested right away” and thrown into prison.

“But I am determined to return home after removing and dissolving the tyrannical regime that has occupied my home.”