Hong Kong Popstar, Former Lawmaker Charged With 'Corruption' Over Campaign Rally Gig

Anthony Wong and Au Nok-hin are being charged with offering free entertainment in return for votes.
By Cheng Yut Yiu and Gigi Lee
2021-08-02
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Hong Kong Popstar, Former Lawmaker Charged With 'Corruption' Over Campaign Rally Gig Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Au Nok-hin is escorted to a police van a day after appearing at the West Kowloon Court on a charge of conspiracy to commit subversion, March 2, 2021.
AFP

Authorities in Hong Kong have charged a pop-star and a former opposition lawmaker with "corruption" after the singer appeared at a political rally during campaigning for a 2018 byelection.

Cantopop star Anthony Wong, 34, and former Legislative Council (LegCo) member Au Nok-hin, 59, were charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Saturday.

They are accused of corrupt conduct, as the performance Wong gave at Au's rally acted as an incentive to vote for Au.

"Wong performed two songs on stage. At the end of the performance, he appealed to the participants of the rally to vote for Au at the election," the ICAC said in a statement.

"Providing others with refreshments and entertainment at an election is a corrupt conduct and a serious offense," it said.

Au is currently already serving a jail time on charges linked to the 2019 protest movement, and is among dozens of former opposition politicians to be charged with "subversion" under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), after they took part in a democratic primary.

Former ICAC officer Stephen Char said the law wasn't entirely clear on whether concerts at political campaign rallies were indeed a form of incitement to vote a certain way.

"Everyone can argue however they want, but the law isn't very clear, and it will be up to the judge to decide," Char told RFA.

"If a professional singer sings, it is obviously entertainment, but if he doesn't try to get you to vote or not vote for someone, it may not be illegal," Char said.

Teachers' union targeted

The move comes amid a widening crackdown on any form of public dissent or political opposition in Hong Kong, with the city's education bureau cutting off ties with its largest teachers' union over the weekend.

The announcement came after Chinese state media denounced the Professional Teachers' Union (PTU), calling for an investigation into its activities, and its abolition.

The bureau hit out at the union's participation with the Civil Human Rights Front and the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, both of which have already been targeted by Chinese state media for alleged breaches of the national security law.

The bureau will no longer hold meetings with the union or its representatives, and it will be excluded from any public consultation exercises.

CCP mouthpiece the People's Daily and state news agency Xinhua had earlier likened the PTU to a "tumor that must be excised," accusing it of fanning the flames of popular protest in Hong Kong.

Education sector 'hijacked'

Chief Executive Carrie Lam weighed in against the body on Monday, saying it had "hijacked" the education sector for political purposes.

"They made use of their political stance to override the professionalism of education, allowing political issues, anti-government, and anti-central government sentiments to enter our schools," Lam told reporters.

Lam said the PTU's "hijacking" of the education sector wasn't fair to teachers.

"We learned a major lesson [from the 2019 protests]," Lam said. "Thousands of students didn't have the awareness to abide by the law. They took part in the protests, some even in the riots. Many teachers organized and took part, some were arrested."

"That's why we're determined to restore order."

A retired teacher and PTU member surnamed Chan said the union had done an excellent job of maintaining teacher morale in the 30 years he had been a member.

He said the move was entirely in line with the thinking of CCP leader Xi Jinping on Hong Kong's future.

"His aim is not to understand the industry or to understand the needs of people working in it, but to exclude dissent, eliminate certain values, and control everyone's thoughts, speech, and social interactions," Chan said.

Joseph Cheng, former political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong, said the PTU was very moderate in its politics, sparking concerns that the government may be planning to come after any independent profession body that doesn't sing from the CCP hymn sheet.

"People are going to be worried that other independent trade unions and independent professional organizations may also be targeted if they don't express strong support for the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, regardless of how law-abiding they have been in the past," Cheng said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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