The vice-chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Lee Wing-tat (李永達) has reportedly left Hong Kong for London amid an ongoing government crackdown on the city’s freedoms, local media report.

Yesterday (August 6), Lee Wing-tat was seen with his wife Josephine Chan Shu-ying (陳樹英) at Hong Kong airport. He later boarded a Cathay Pacific flight for London.

Chan, who has remained in Hong Kong, confirmed to Democratic Party members that Lee had left for the UK and that he “does not expect to return to Hong Kong in the short term.” She has not provided further details, saying that she would not “speak on his behalf” and that Lee “will reply himself if necessary.”

According to Hong Kong media outlet HK01, Lee Wing-tat had not informed the chairman of the Democratic Party, Lo Kin-hei (羅健熙), of his plans to leave and has not submitted his resignation as party vice-chairman.

Lee became active in politics during the British colonial era. He was elected to the District Council in 1985 and to the Regional Council in 1986. He was a founding member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

Lee Wing-tat (third from left) with other prominent pro-democracy activists in April 2019

He later founded the United Democrats of Hong Kong, which was renamed Democratic Party in 1994. He served as a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council from 1991 to 2000, when he lost his seat. He was re-elected in 2004 and served as a lawmaker until 2012.

Lee was among the eight leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement who were found guilty of public nuisance charges in April 2019. He was sentenced to 8 months in prison, suspended for two years.

In May of this year Hong Kong’s legislature passed an electoral reform bill that curtails the right to vote and increases the number of lawmakers loyal to the Communist Party.The law further empowers the national security department to carry out background checks to ensure candidates for public office are “patriotic”.

Following the adoption of the electoral reform bill, Lee Wing-tat argued that the Democratic Party should no longer participate in elections. He stated that if party candidates passed the government’s background checks, it would be like a “Communist Party’s favour” (共產黨恩賜) to the Democrats, de facto making them beholden to the regime.

According to a recent survey, 21% of Hong Kongers, or around 1.5 million people, plan to leave the city. Around 100,000 people have already left Hong Kong since the Communist Party passed the National Security Law (NSL) in June 2020. The Law has been used to crack down on political activists, journalists and dissidents.

In July popular Hong Kong radio and television host Tsang Chi-ho (曾志豪) announced that he had fled to Taiwan after being sacked because of remarks which the government alleged “denigrated and insulted” the police.

On June 27 Lo Fung, former editorial writer of the pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily, was arrested at Hong Kong airport on charges of collusion with foreign forces, several days after Apple Daily was forced to shut down.