20 April 2019
If EAC chairman Barnabas Fung is no longer impartial, he is no longer fit for that role. Photo: CNSA
If EAC chairman Barnabas Fung is no longer impartial, he is no longer fit for that role. Photo: CNSA

Shame on Fung Wah for infringing our freedom of thought

Under the law, only a judge can serve as the chairman of the Electoral Affairs Committee (EAC).

However, since the committee was established in 1997 as an independent body to manage and oversee the electoral process, it falls under the executive branch rather than the judiciary, and its chairman does not perform his role as a judge while serving on the committee.

So, if I am here to reprimand the chairman of the EAC, Barnabas Fung Wah, for his stupidity, his failure to do his job and his incompetence — which is exactly what I am going to do in this article — it won’t constitute contempt of court, because Fung no longer acts as a judge while he is the EAC chairman.

The reason I am lashing out at Fung here is because it is apparent that he is collaborating with the Independent Commission Against Corruption in its secret agenda to crack down on civil society in Hong Kong.

The fact that Fung and the ICAC are mounting a white terror campaign against netizens who rallied support on the social media for Hong Kong Indigenous candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei during the Legislative Council by-election in February indicates that like some other thugs in the legal sector, Fung has already taken sides with the tyrannical regime.

By persecuting average citizens for their political beliefs, Fung is literally declaring war on the freedom of speech and freedom of thought to which the people of Hong Kong are entitled, and it is a war that will spare no one in this city.

It is spine-chilling to hear that in the 21st century, in a modern and civilized city like Hong Kong, an average person could face jail time just because he or she posted a message on Facebook urging others to vote for someone in an election.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what emerged last week in our city.

Expressing your own political views or supporting a particular election candidate on social media has become an indispensable part of millennial culture.

Hundreds of thousands of people are doing this through their smartphones on a daily basis, and the authorities are trying to outlaw that?

Are they totally out of their minds?

The netizen who posted messages on her Facebook page supporting Leung in the by-election, and who is now under ICAC investigation for suspected election fraud, doesn’t even know Leung at all.

She rooted for Leung because she agreed with his election pledges, and she wanted to share her views with others.

What is shocking and ridiculous is that the ICAC is launching a criminal investigation, in the absence of substantial evidence, against that young woman for allegedly engaging in election advertising.

Earlier this month, the news site reported, Fung was unable to give a clear answer to reporters’ questions about the exact definition of “election advertisements”.

He conceded that owing to legal loopholes, it is difficult to make sweeping generalizations about the legal definition of “election advertisements” or “promotion materials”, especially when it comes to internet messages, unless these messages are overwhelmingly in favour of a particular candidate.

Fung said he’d rather leave the decision over whether to press charges or not to the ICAC, which, he said, should exercise discretion on this issue.

The ICAC decided to investigate the young woman even after Fung admitted that whether online messages from individual internet users should be counted as election advertisements remains open to dispute.

So on what grounds is the ICAC’s investigation based, when the chairman of the EAC himself, the supposedly highest authority on election laws, can’t even tell exactly whether what she did was against the law?

I have enough reason to believe the ICAC is trying to create a fait accompli, with the acquiescence of Fung, in presuming that social media messages are considered election advertisements — while the jury is still out on this issue — so as to intimidate anti-establishment netizens.

My conclusion is that Fung, who has become pro-establishment, is no longer impartial as the EAC chairman and is therefore no longer fit for that job.

I believe the only way to fight his crackdown on dissent is to ignore whatever guidelines the EAC has issued on election advertisements in the upcoming Legco elections.

I vow that I will pledge my full support to candidates of the indigenous faction in September by sending hundreds of thousands of messages on Facebook!

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 24.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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