Hong Kong Candidate Tony To Ends Campaign After Police Visits

HONG KONG, Aug 23 (Reuters) – Tony To, a democracy advocate who was a prominent candidate in Hong Kong’s upcoming by-election, said on Tuesday he was suspending his campaign following visits from police to his and his team’s homes. To, the son of late veteran pro-democracy activist Lau Shan-ching, had been expected to be a strong contender in the Sept. 25 by-election for a seat in the Hong Kong Legislative Council. But he announced his suspension on social media, saying the visits had ‘brought immense pressure’ on his family, including his elderly mother. ‘I have no choice but to make this painful decision in the best interests of my family,’ To wrote. He did not give details of the police visits or say whether they were related to his campaign. Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. To’s withdrawal from the race is a blow to the pro-democracy camp, which has been facing increasing pressure from the authorities since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the former British colony in 2020. The law has been used to crack down on dissent and disqualify pro-democracy candidates from running for office. The by-election is being held to fill the seat of former lawmaker Alvin Yeung, who was disqualified in March under the national security law. Other pro-democracy candidates have also faced pressure and intimidation. Earlier this month, another candidate, Lester Shum, was arrested on suspicion of violating the security law. Shum was released on bail but has been barred from leaving Hong Kong. The pro-democracy camp has been urging voters to come out in force for the by-election in a bid to send a message to Beijing that they will not be deterred by the crackdown. To’s withdrawal from the race will make that task more difficult. In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it respected To’s decision and wished him well. The government also said it was committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights and freedoms of all Hong Kong residents. However, critics say the national security law has been used to stifle dissent and undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy. The law has been widely condemned by Western governments, which say it has eroded the ‘one country, two systems’ framework that was agreed when Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997..

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