Hardly considered a leading figure in Hong Kong’s pan-democratic camp, Au Nok-hin has suddenly entered the spotlight after offering his candidacy for the city’s legislative by-election on March 11.
The Southern district councillor submitted his nomination on Saturday as part of the political opposition’s backup plan for the hotly contested race after officials rejected Agnes Chow Ting of Demosisto on the grounds that her party called for local “self-determination” under Beijing’s rule.
The pan-democrats did not hold a so-called primary for the Hong Kong Island constituency, having originally calculated that Chow would have no problem getting her candidacy confirmed. For this reason, no contingency strategy previously existed, unlike for Kowloon West, where former lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim was the camp’s choice but still facing uncertainty about being allowed to run given his ouster last year for an improper oath of office.
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If confirmed, Au’s candidacy could deal a significant blow to the pro-establishment camp. Judy Chan Ka-pui, of the New People’s Party, is comparatively much less experienced in politics than Au.
A Democratic Party member from 2009 until last year, Au, 30, quit the group “to pursue his own political beliefs”. He had been seen as one of its “young turks” and since 2011 has served as a Southern district councillor.
Veteran Democrat Lee Wing-tat described him in an interview with the Post in 2014 as “one of the few progressive members” of the party.
In Hong Kong, a “progressive” politician often refers to someone willing to use more radical means to bring issues to the fore.
Yet after leaving the Democratic Party, Au did not join any group advocating independence from Beijing.
He has also served as a convenor of the pan-democratic Civil Human Rights Front, the key organising group of the city’s annual July 1 march among other protests.
But it was reported Au’s “progressive” stance might give him trouble in securing his by-election candidacy. He contributed an article to the “Discourse on Reforming Hong Kong” project, co-founded by Education University political scientist Brian Fong Chi-hang. Many in the pro-establishment camp view it as espousing “self-determination”.
One of the project’s aims is to broaden “imaginations of Hong Kong’s future by drawing upon the case studies of autonomies” around the world, according to its website.
Au entered politics as a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he majored in government and public administration. He was reportedly active in a campus radio station and served on the student union.
In 2012, he was the youngest candidate to contest the Democratic Party’s leadership election. He did not win.
In addition, Au joined Democrat James To Kun-sun’s territory-wide “super seat” ticket in the 2012 Legislative Council elections, but he was unsuccessful. In the 2016 Legislative Council elections, he ran to represent the wholesale and retail constituency. He lost that race too.