One of Hong Kong’s most prominent young opposition leaders said he called on the global community to closely monitor the city’s coming legislative elections for “meddling” by Beijing when he met a top diplomat from the United States in London on Tuesday.
Nathan Law Kwun-chung also said he discussed the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang and Tibet regions with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during their private exchange at the American ambassador’s residence.
I urge the international community to pay close attention to the development in the coming two months
Nathan Law, activist
Law left Hong Kong shortly after top Chinese lawmakers introduced a sweeping national security law last month, a move that led some Western nations, including Britain, to suspend their extradition treaties with the city. He has vowed to continue lobbying for the city’s democratic movement from London.
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The activist said he told Pompeo Beijing would be “busy making plans to meddle in September’s Legislative Council elections, almost certainly by once again disqualifying candidates it deems unacceptable”.
“I specifically highlighted the opposition camp’s successful primary held earlier this month, in which more than 600,000 people cast their votes,” he said on his Twitter account, referring to unofficial polls aimed at narrowing down the bloc’s field of candidates.
Beijing slammed the process as “unlawful manipulation” of elections, while Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor accused the opposition camp of trying to take control of the legislature in order to paralyse the government, in what she described as a coordinated ploy to subvert state power which could breach the national security law.
Election hopefuls must have their applications validated by a civil servant working at the district level and who is appointed by the Electoral Affairs Commission. In previous years, about 10 candidates have been barred from running in either the legislative or district council elections due to their political stance.
“I urge the international community to pay close attention to the development in the coming two months,” Law said.
Pompeo had earlier voiced “grave concerns” over Lam’s remarks on the primary and said Washington would carefully monitor developments concerning the coming polls.
They also talked about the rights situation in China’s far western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, where authorities have been accused of locking up more than a million Uygurs, a mostly Muslim minority, in detention camps. Beijing maintains the facilities are job training sites and the programme is aimed at improving locals’ livelihood.
“These are places world leaders ought not to neglect as they consider their next steps in strengthening democracy against Chinese authoritarian expansion,” Law said.
A former key member of Demosisto, Law quit the political group he co-founded with Joshua Wong Chi-fung hours before the enactment of the national security law on June 30 that targets acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
The activist previously met the secretary of state in May last year during a trip to the US with pro-democracy heavyweights Martin Lee Chu-ming and Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee to discuss an extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong government.
The legislation launched a wave of protests last June, which then descended into often-violent social unrest. Both Lee and Ng have since been charged with taking part in unlawful protests.
Law testified online at a US congressional hearing in which he criticised the new security law on July 1. He revealed his departure the next day and his destination – London – early last week.
On Monday, he said he met three shadow ministers critical of the Hong Kong government – Lisa Nancy, Stephen Kinnock and Nigel Adams, to discuss possible sanctions.
The same day British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Law has also met Chris Patten, the city’s last governor before the handover from Britain to China in 1997.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies and a senior adviser to Beijing, called Law’s latest remarks “childish” and said they would only make the mainland Chinese leadership more resolute in stemming out “foreign interference”.
But he expected any reaction from Beijing would be measured as it would not want to give US President Donald Trump an excuse to drum up voter support by bashing China ahead of the presidential election in November.
Wilson Chan Wai-shun, secretary general of the Global Studies Institute Hong Kong, a research provider which specialises in international relations, said Law being given the chance to meet Pompeo was “groundbreaking”, given the activist held no official titles.
Their meeting was also different from a previous session when Law was accompanied by seasoned Hong Kong democrats. “It shows the US is keen to get a first-person feel of what the younger generation of political figures in Hong Kong are experiencing today,” Chan said.
But the brief encounter was unlikely to cause changes in Washington’s policy decisions, he said, as they relied on their own researchers back home. Still, the activists’ tactics to lobby overseas appeared to be working in terms of increasing press exposure and establishing official channels to convey concerns, the geopolitics specialist added.
Rebel City: Hong Kong’s Year of Water and Fire is a new book of essays that chronicles the political confrontation that has gripped the city since June 2019. Edited by the South China Morning Post's Zuraidah Ibrahim and Jeffie Lam, the book draws on work from the Post's newsrooms across Hong Kong, Beijing, Washington and Singapore, with unmatched insights into all sides of the conflict. Buy directly from SCMP today for HKD$198. Rebel City: Hong Kong's Year of Water and Fire is also available at major bookshops worldwide and online through Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, and eBooks.com.
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