On Sept 29, 2022, the criminal fugitive and ex-lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung was sentenced in the High Court to 3.5 years’ imprisonment, after he was convicted in absentia of criminal contempt.
The evidence showed that, in 2020, while facing nine criminal charges, he deceived the Judiciary into granting him permission to travel to Denmark to attend an environmental conference, from Nov 30 to Dec 4. Having assured the chief district judge, Justin Ko King-sau, that he would return after the conference, he failed to do so, and the conference turned out to be a sham.
Once Hui reached Denmark, he announced he would not be returning, and he flew instead to the United Kingdom on Dec 4, where he was reunited with his family members. It soon became clear that Hui was receiving financial support from foreign agencies, presumably because their governments wanted to help one of their agents. Despite being on the run, he was allowed to remain in Britain for the next three months, and, on March 8, 2021, he was granted a travel exemption for Australia by its then-prime minister, Scott Morrison, and this enabled Hui to move there.
Hui’s trip to Copenhagen was arranged with a cabal of anti-China Danish politicians, and they supplied him with a bogus invitation as well as a false itinerary for the nonexistent conference. When sentencing him, Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai, noted that Hui had “carefully orchestrated” the deception on the Judiciary, and that his actions “not only made a mockery of the criminal justice system but also amounted to the commission of the offense of perverting the course of public justice”.
Although Hui’s sentence was richly deserved, he showed no remorse. Imagining himself safe in his foreign hideaway, he said he “despised” the court’s decision, and that it allowed “the world to see the madness and incompetence of Hong Kong’s authorities”. If by that he meant that the Judiciary should never have allowed itself to be hoodwinked by a proven liar and a convicted felon, he may have had a point, but justice now has him firmly in its sights.
In the UK, Hong Kong Watch — the anti-China propaganda outfit that has the ex-governor, Chris Patten, as its patron, and is operated by the serial fantasist Benedict Rogers — has been supportive of Hui throughout. Since he fled, Rogers, who calls Hui his “hero”, has gone out of his way to promote his standing, and has even appointed him to Hong Kong Watch’s advisory board, which is strange. Beyond lying to judges, assaulting women and damaging property, he is not known to have any particular aptitudes, and it is hard to see what useful advice he can give anybody.
Although, after the legislative elections of 2016, the so-called “pan-dem” camp spawned a host of unsavory characters, Hui stands out as one of the most worthless. In 2019, for example, after he attacked a female civil servant in the Legislative Council’s precincts and grabbed her telephone, he was convicted of common assault, obstructing a public officer, and gaining access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent. Undeterred, he then set about vandalizing the legislature itself.
In May 2020, Hui threw noxious substances around in the Legislative Council’s chamber, and then deposited a rotten plant on its floor, such being his idea of political discourse. In consequence, he was required not only to pay for the damage, but was also charged with attempting to use a harmful substance to cause harm, mental injury or irritation to others. Thereafter, he was also charged with contempt for obstructing the Legislative Council’s officials amid violent scenes, which left several of them injured. His resignation from the Legislative Council in November 2020 was, therefore, a blessing, not only for his fellow legislators and its long-suffering staff, but also for everyone who believes in decency in public life.
When Hui fled, the nine criminal charges he faced included his alleged involvement in an act intended to pervert the course of public justice, obtaining access to a computer with dishonest intent, and criminal damage arising from a violent protest at Tuen Mun Police Station, on July 6, 2019.
With his criminal antecedents and psychopathic disposition, it beggars belief that the Five Eyes partners and their outriders would lift so much as a finger to assist Hui, yet they shamelessly pulled out all the stops. Their actions are only explicable on the basis they felt obliged to assist somebody who had tried so hard to wreck the “one country, two systems” policy in 2019-20 and undermine China, and who, despite being damaged goods, still retains some value as an anti-China propagandist. Indeed, with help from Hong Kong Watch, Hui has now been appointed to the advisory board of the US-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, the neo-McCarthyite body that was sanctioned by China for its hostile activities on July 27, 2021.
When China remonstrated over Morrison’s decision to admit Hui, it was snubbed. Australian Senator James Paterson, who at the time chaired the parliamentary committee on intelligence and security, said, on March 11, 2021, that immigration policies were “purely a domestic sovereign issue for Australia”, and China’s concerns were brushed aside. This was clearly because Hui was seen as a useful asset, even though the decision to welcome a criminal fugitive was contemptuous of the rule of law, about which Morrison usually waxed so lyrical.
If by that he meant that the Judiciary should never have allowed itself to be hoodwinked by a proven liar and a convicted felon, he may have had a point, but justice now has him firmly in its sights
In any event, Hui made no secret about the nature of his mission. Shortly after arriving, he said, “I am very grateful for the Australian government’s assistance”, and revealed he would be asking members of Parliament to seek the imposition of Magnitsky-style financial sanctions upon Chinese officials. He then, for good measure, said he wanted the politicians to “diversify” the Australian economy away from China, which would clearly be a prelude to decoupling the two economies. The decoupling of the Western economies from China is a developing aspiration of the more-fanatical Sinophobes, and Morrison was clearly happy to give Hui free rein, although this was by no means all.
Hui also explained that he had come to Australia as part of a broader anti-China strategy designed to exert influence across the Five Eyes intelligence and security network of Canada, the UK, New Zealand, the US and Australia. In other words, he saw his role as effectively that of a roving ambassador for Hong Kong Watch, whipping up hatred of China around the world and doing all he could to harm his home country and its officials, including those in Hong Kong. He declared it was “time to move on to a different battleground”, and he has, with Canberra’s blessing, been peddling his poison ever since.
After Justice Chan sentenced Hui last Thursday, Hong Kong Watch immediately sprang to the defense of its proxy. Describing him as “my friend”, Benedict Rogers, hopefully ignorant of the gravity of Hui’s offending, called the sentence an “outrageous injustice”. What, in fact, the sentence demonstrated is that nobody is above the law, and that vile crimes will not go unpunished, even if the offender’s sentence cannot be immediately executed.
Although the Australian authorities have openly deployed Hui as a tool against China, its consul general in Hong Kong, Elizabeth Ward, will hopefully now provide them with a comprehensive briefing on their guest’s offending. They need to know the full details of his latest crimes, so that they can make an informed decision over whether they still want to provide him with a propaganda platform, let alone continue to tolerate his presence. After all, however much Canberra wishes to cozy up to the United States, it must surely appreciate that honor cannot be completely sacrificed, and that at some point basic decencies have to be prioritized over political machinations.
In the meantime, the Department of Justice in Hong Kong has said it will issue a warrant of committal for the court to order Hui to serve his sentence. Any assets he may still have in Hong Kong must also be used to pay the costs of the proceedings. Although there is inevitably an element of artificiality attached to the punishment of an offender who is outside the jurisdiction, the Police Force should now brace itself for the long haul, and pursue their quarry for as long as it takes. Every possible means of bringing Hui to justice must be explored, including formal extradition, international networks, ad hoc arrangements, intelligence operations, cash rewards, and, if necessary, subterfuge.
Whichever course is chosen, Hui will be on the force’s radar for as long as he lives, and he will forever have to look over his shoulder, particularly when traveling. Despite his bravado, there can be no doubt that he, like his henchmen, is already seriously rattled by the law’s proximity.
Indeed, on Jan 13, 2022, Hui, together with 15 of his confederates, including the likes of Brian Leung Kai-ping, who vandalized the Legislative Council building on July 1, 2019; Nathan Law Kwun-chung, who assists foreign powers in their efforts to destabilize China; and Mark Simon, who helps Jimmy Lai Chee-ying with his covert operations, co-signed an “open letter” to the secretary-general of Interpol, Jurgen Stock. They claimed they were in “very real danger”, and implored the global police body to protect them from what they said was the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s and China’s “political abuse of Red Notices, Diffusions and other tools at their disposal”.
This, quite clearly, is fascinating, as it suggests that, far from feeling comfortable in their various boltholes, they are all acutely aware of just how long the arm of the law can be.
It may, however, take justice many years to catch up with Hui, but fugitives never really feel safe, even when they have protection. They are forever tormented by fear of the judgment day, which may be years away or just around the corner. It can, as many fugitives have explained, be a sad existence, cut off from family and friends, and barred from returning to the places they love.
But let nobody shed any tears for Hui, who deserves only contempt. He is a charlatan who led people astray, betrayed his home city and sold out his country, and then pawned his soul to foreign powers. He may not yet be behind bars, but he is reviled throughout China and trapped in a dreary and futile exile, and his life must involve its own unique torments.
It was, after all, Horace, the Roman lyric poet, who so memorably posed the question, “What exile from his country is able to escape from himself?”
The author is a senior counsel and law professor, and was previously the director of public prosecutions of the Hong Kong SAR.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.