Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow jumps bail and moves to Canada
Posted Dec 4, 2023 12:49:41 AM.
Last Updated Dec 4, 2023 11:24:31 PM.
HONG KONG (AP) — One of Hong Kong’s best-known pro-democracy activists who moved to Canada to pursue her studies said she would not return to the city to meet her bail conditions, becoming the latest politician to flee Hong Kong under Beijing’s crackdown on dissidents.
Agnes Chow, a famous young face in the city’s once-vibrant pro-democracy movement, was arrested in 2020 under a Beijing-imposed national security law that was enacted following 2019 anti-government protests. She was released on bail but also served more than six months in jail in a separate case over her role in the protests.
After Chow was released from prison in 2021, she had to regularly report to the police. She said in an Instagram post on Sunday night that the pressure caused her “mental illnesses” and influenced her decision not to return to the city.
Many of her peers have been jailed, arrested, forced into self-exile or silenced after the introduction of the security law in 2020.
The suppression of the city’s pro-democracy movement highlights that freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997 have been eroded drastically. Both Beijing and Hong Kong governments have hailed the security law for bringing back stability to the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Chow said the authorities in July offered to return her passport so she could pursue studies in Canada under the condition that she traveled to mainland China with them. She agreed, she said, and her trip in August included a visit to an exhibition on China’s achievements and the headquarters of tech giant Tencent. The authorities later returned her passport.
After considering the situation in Hong Kong, her safety and her health, Chow said she “probably won’t return” to the city again.
“I don’t want to be forced to do things that I don’t want to do anymore and be forced to visit mainland China again. If it continues, my body and my mind will collapse even though I am safe,” she wrote.
Chow told TV Tokyo on Monday that she was still weighing her next steps, including the option of seeking asylum in Canada, the broadcaster reported. Asked whether she would take up political activism there, she said she wanted to do something in Hong Kong’s interest, TV Tokyo said.
Hong Kong police on Monday “strongly condemned” Chow’s move, without naming her, saying it was “against and challenging the rule of law.”
“Police urge the woman to immediately turn back before it is too late and not to choose a path of no return. Otherwise, she will bear the stigma of ‘fugitive’ for the rest of her life,” the police said in a statement.
The police did not respond to questions from The Associated Press on Chow’s mainland China trip.
Asked about Chow’s case at a daily briefing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Hong Kong is a law-based society and no one has a privilege beyond law. Any illegal acts will be punished, he said.
Hong Kong leader John Lee said during a weekly briefing on Tuesday that police had given Chow lenient treatment but were deceived. Lee said those who supported offering her leniency “must find this utterly disappointing” and that police would learn from their experiences and continue to safeguard law and order.
He said some residents had underestimated the threat posed by foreign forces to national security and that Hong Kong’s own national security law, scheduled to be completed next year, must proceed with “full strength.” Similar legislative efforts were shelved in 2003 after fears about lost freedoms sparked a massive protest.
The Hong Kong government also strongly condemned Chow’s acts in a statement and said her credibility had gone “bankrupt.”
“Unless fugitives surrender themselves, otherwise they would be pursued for life,” it wrote.
Chow rose to fame with other prominent young activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law as a student leader, including in pro-democracy protests in 2014.
She co-founded the now-defunct pro-democracy party Demosisto with Wong and Law, but the party was disbanded on June 30, 2020, the same day the security law was enacted.
Wong is now in custody and faces a subversion charge that could result in life imprisonment if convicted. Law fled to Britain and the police in July offered a reward of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,600) for information leading to his arrest.
Kanis Leung, The Associated Press