HK police freeze absconding Ted Hui’s bank accounts on national security charges, vows to apprehend fugitives

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/6 21:38:40

HK police freeze absconding ex-lawmaker Ted Hui’s bank accounts on national security charges, vows to apprehend fugitives

Hong Kong Police Wanchai district headquarters. Photo:Xinhua

As the Hong Kong government and judiciary show resolution in punishing secessionists and restoring social order, Ted Hui Chi-fung, the recently absconded former opposition lawmaker, told the media on Saturday that all his bank accounts with millions of Hong Kong dollars in "life savings" had been frozen after he absconded.

The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) confirmed to the Global Times on Sunday that Hui is suspected of embezzling crowdfunding money from his relatives' accounts, and is being investigated for money laundering. He is also suspected of colluding with a foreign power to endanger national security, and the HKPF ordered the funds in his account to be frozen, which involves about HK$850,000 ($109,700).

Hui, 38, fled to the UK on Friday after a visit to Denmark while out on bail, adding to a number of fleeing opposition lawmakers. According to Hui, at least five accounts at HSBC, Hang Seng Bank and Bank of China (Hong Kong) belonging to him and his family members have "apparently been frozen." 

Both the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and the Security Bureau condemned Hui's decision to abscond, stressing that everyone should be responsible for his own actions, and relevant departments would follow up the case and arrest the suspect.

"We will track down the whereabouts of the fugitive through different legal channels and bring him back to face trial," the HKPF said in a statement to the Global Times. 

Chris Tang Ping-keung, commissioner of police of the HKPF, said in a TV broadcast on Sunday that absconding is a shame for oneself, one's family and the younger generation. His remarks were seen as a criticism of Hui, although he didn't mention any names.

Hui resigned from the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) - along with other 14 opposition lawmakers - after the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress made a decision on the qualifications of LegCo members in November. 

Hui was accused of interrupting the proceedings of the LegCo by splashing a foul-smelling liquid. The court adjourned the case to February 2021 and freed Hui on HK$2,000 ($258) bail on November 19. 

Moreover, Hui has eight other charges pending against him, including intent to obstruct justice and contempt. He later announced on social media that he had absconded and would go into "exile" on Thursday. 

A spokesperson with Hong Kong Monetary Authority told the Global Times on Sunday that it doesn’t comment on individual cases, and generally speaking, if bank clients have inquiries about their bank accounts, they are suggested to contact their banks to deal with the concerns as soon as possible.

An HSBC spokesperson said the bank must abide by the laws of its jurisdictions. "Generally speaking, when banks are made aware of negative news in the market, they will enhance due diligence on the relevant accounts as part of their responsibility."

Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, solicitor of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, said that the most plausible explanation is that the banks had already detected suspicious activity in Hui's accounts, and he was unable to provide a reasonable explanation. 

The freezing of assets of people involved in illegal activities is a legal decision for both banks and the police, Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times. "For the HKSAR government, the global manhunt for fugitives who have absconded from bail is a reflection of its legal and political responsibilities."

"The Hong Kong government and the HKPF have shown their attitude, that lawbreakers who fled will eventually be brought to trial, no matter how long they are on the run," Tang said.

Hui was not the only opposition politician to flee Hong Kong in recent years. Former convener of the pro-secession student group Students Independence Union Wayne Chan and former chairman of the now-disbanded secessionist social group Demosisto Nathan Law also absconded in 2020. 

On Thursday, HK01 reported that former opposition lawmaker Baggio Leung had fled to the US.

Recently, the Hong Kong judiciary has taken actions against leading figures of the year-long social turmoil, which is seen as a major signal to emphasize the city's determination and political will to maintain social stability.

On Wednesday, former leaders of Demosisto - Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam - were sentenced to various prison terms. 

On Thursday, the notorious media tycoon Jimmy Lai was denied bail in his fraud case, out of concern that he may flee Hong Kong. He may be detained until the next trial scheduled in April, as his violation of the national security law for Hong Kong is still in the legal process.

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