CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Former Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker and activist Ted Hui Chi-fung said he had relocated to Australia where he would 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 on Wednesday 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 Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“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 the northern Australian city of Darwin on a 12-month tourist visa on Tuesday and would remain in 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.
Hui said on social media that “applying for asylum” in Australia “would be my last option.”
China’s Embassy in Australia accused the Australian government of meddling in Hong Kong’s internal affairs by allowing Hui into the country.
“The Chinese side urges the Australian side to stop meddling in Hong Kong‘s affairs and China’s internal affairs in any way,” an embassy statement said. “Otherwise the China-Australia relations will only sustain further damage.”
Chinese-Australian relations have plumbed new depths since Australia called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hong Kong-based Australian lawyer Antony Dapiran said Hui’s move to Australia would be welcomed by Hong Kong dissidents.
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 semi-autonomous territory in response to massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy rallies in 2019.
Scores of democracy advocates have been arrested for allegedly violating the law, which critics say erodes the rights and freedoms promised to Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework following the handover from British colonial rule in 1997.
“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 harboring a fugitive from the law,” Dapiran said.
Hui did not immediately return The Associated Press’ phone call on Wednesday.