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Anticipating End of Communist Rule, Hong Kong Dissidents Form Parliament-in-Exile

Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: August 7, 2023
Democracy activist Elmer Yuen holds a news conference on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, in London to campaign for a Hong Kong parliament-in-exile to be returned by democratic votes of Hong Kongers around the world. (Image: Stone/RFA)

A number of figures who fled Hong Kong after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ramped up political repression in the former British colony have announced the establishment an exile government to help “take down the communists and regain freedom for Hong Kong.”

Helming the effort is 74-year-old Elmer Yuen, an entrepreneur originally from Shanghai who has loomed large in the Hong Kong democracy movement, especially during and following the 2019-2020 protests.

The protests, which saw millions of the city’s 7 million people come out to oppose the CCP’s erasure of Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” arrangement, led to Beijing imposing its “National Security Law” (NSL) on the city on June 2020 — essentially extending the political repression commonplace in mainland China to Hong Kong.

Thousands of Hongkongers have been arrested or otherwise punished for violations of the NSL, and over 160,000 have emigrated to the UK, which until 1997 governed the port as a Crown Colony, since the law’s passage.

Announcing his plan for the creation of an exile government on Tuesday, Aug. 1, Yuen envisions the parliament as a venue for Hongkongers around the world to participate in the democratic process, resist the CCP, and be organized for the eventuality of the Communist Party’s fall from power.

“Public figures, possibly including British MPs, will be invited to sit on the parliament’s election commission in August, with roughly 100 candidates based outside Hong Kong to stand for 30 to 40 MPs seats. … While it would not be able to implement laws for Hong Kong, the exiled parliament will lobby for international recognition,” per a report by the UK-based i news outlet.

“We think within two to three years, maybe even earlier, the Chinese Communist Party regime will collapse,” Yuen told reporters at the press conference in London.

The parliament would then return to represent Hong Kong following the end of communism in China.

“We’re not trying to take over China. We are trying to take back Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong parliament will be the representative organisation,” Yuen said.

Yuen announced his plan for a parliament-in-exile last July, and has come under pressure by the CCP to scrap it, as he told U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA) that August.

This year, on Thursday, Aug. 3, police detained Yuen’s ex-wife, as well as their son and daughter, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao. The news was backed up by government outlet Radio Television Hong Kong, citing sources in the city’s police.

“The raids came after police raided the homes of three other Yuen family members on July 24, taking them away for questioning on suspicion of ‘assisting fugitives in continuing to engage in acts that endanger national security,'” as reported by RFA.

Yuen believes that Hongkongers need to stand up for themselves, rather than leave the matter of their governance to outsiders, whether Beijing or the British.

“Now, we’re going to set up our own parliament in a way that suits us, and we will be our own masters,” Yuen said.

He envisions that up to 1 million Hongkongers will take part in the parliament, and sees his cause as one he must stand up for regardless of the threat the CCP poses to his business interests or family members.

“Freedom for Hong Kong is more important than my personal wealth, freedom, or the freedom and safety of my family,” he said. “I would say that the future of Hong Kong is more important than me and my family.” 

“I know I am taking risks, but there is a price to be paid, and that is a price that we should be paying,” he said at the press conference on Aug. 1.

The parliament-in-exile is likely to be physically based in London.