16 September 2019
Despite a barrage of criticism over a speech he made last month, lawmaker Junius Ho has not toned down his rhetoric against those perceived to be acting against Beijing's interests. Photo: RTHK
Despite a barrage of criticism over a speech he made last month, lawmaker Junius Ho has not toned down his rhetoric against those perceived to be acting against Beijing's interests. Photo: RTHK

Junius Ho can’t seem to stay away from controversy

If anyone expected lawmaker Junius Ho to lie low after the controversy last month surrounding his vitriolic outburst against anti-Beijing groups, he has dispelled such hopes quite swiftly.

On Wednesday, Ho was back in the media spotlight as he again tore into those perceived to be opposing China’s tight control of Hong Kong.

During a Facebook Live chat from Beijing, the pro-establishment lawmaker crossed a new line as he suggested that Hongkongers who didn’t bother to secure mainland travel permits must be viewed with suspicion. 

Noting that more than a million Hong Kong citizens did not apply for the China travel permits, Ho wondered aloud as to what could be the reason for that.

He then went on to suggest that such people may be advocates of Hong Kong independence, or perhaps they just don’t like China and don’t want to go there.

Meanwhile, he lashed out at his critics, saying that people who “don’t even have a home return permit” don’t have the right to question him.

The tense exchange happened after Ho faced questions as to how he was able to use Facebook Live while in Beijing, where use of the social media platform is banned.

Explaining that he used a cross-border mobile phone plan to gain access, Ho accused his questioners of being “dumb” and said “may be they don’t have the permit”, referring to the so-called home return permit that facilitates travel to the mainland.

Delving into the issue of non-procurement of the travel documents, Ho said it could be a case of people refusing to accept identity as Chinese nationals.

“Refuse to admit to a Chinese identity… It’s very silly,” he said, warning that Hongkongers will lose out with such attitude.

“China’s economy is growing very fast… There is gold to be picked up, and yet you don’t want to go there?” 

All these comments, which came during a trip to Beijing to attend China’s National Day celebrations, may have been another show of loyalty by Ho to the Communist leadership, yet they should add to the worries of Hong Kong people. 

Ho’s remarks serve as another reminder that in Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing camp, it is the aggressive hardliners who are on the ascendant now.

During a forum in Hong Kong last month, Ho had the audience aghast as he called for the death of independence advocates.

Such activists must be killed “without mercy”, he said, drawing wide condemnation, even from some people within the establishment camp.

Ho tried to ride out the storm, saying he may have misspoken and that the words should not be taken literally. 

Still, the controversy has left observers in no doubt as to what the radical Beijing loyalists are now seeking: suppress anti-China elements in society though violent means, if necessary.

Ho’s comments in September came after independence posters appeared on university campuses, grabbing media headlines.

Judging from the strong reaction, it is clear that the new crop of leaders within the pro-Beijing camp want authorities to keep a heavy hand and not allow topics such as self-determination or independence be even debated in the city.

Ho, for his part, seems unfazed even as pan-democratic lawmakers are preparing to table a motion to censure and impeach him for his apparent call for violence against independence advocates.

Well, the reality is that it could be difficult for the Legislative Council to pass such motion against Ho, given the pro-Beijing camp’s majority in the house.

Apart from his controversial speech, which has dented Hong Kong’s reputation, Ho is also facing scrutiny over alleged false information he gave regarding his professional qualifications in the run-up to the Legco election last year.

In election campaign material, Ho wrongly claimed that he’s a practicing solicitor in Britain and Singapore. After facing questions, he was found changing the wording from “practicing” to “qualified to practice” on his law firm’s website.

With the Independent Commission Against Corruption said to be looking into the matter, a guilty ruling could cost Ho his Legco seat. 

However, Ho doesn’t think he had done anything wrong, and has not even apologized to the public. He also said that he is not worried about reports that the anti-graft body is probing his case

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Ho wrote that he’ll bravely face any challenges.

Well, his confidence that is not entirely misplaced, given his status as a high-flyer in the pro-Beijing camp and the support he enjoys from local and Chinese authorities. 

Ho may win his current battles, but he needs to ponder as to what the future will hold for him.

There could come a time when Beijing will feel that Ho is no longer useful and that he is more of an embarrassment rather than an asset.

If the bosses indeed decide to cut him loose, where will that leave the “blind loyalist” who is fast becoming one of the most disliked people in Hong Kong politics?   

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer