Hong Kong activist Agnes Chow skips bail, refuses return

Chow, who played a leading role in the 2019 pro-democracy protests, is the latest dissident to flee Beijing’s crackdown.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]

A prominent Hong Kong activist who played a leading role in the 2019 antigovernment protests has announced she will not return to the city amid fears for her safety.

Agnes Chow, who has been studying in Canada, announced in a social media post on Sunday night that she will not meet bail conditions requiring her return. She is the latest political figure to flee Hong Kong as Beijing pursues a renewed crackdown on dissidents.

Chow, 27, was arrested in 2020 and received a 10-month jail sentence for participating in an unauthorised assembly. The charges came under Beijing’s national security law, imposed by China in response to the widespread demonstrations the previous year.

She was released on bail in 2021, after spending more than six months in jail, on the condition she check in with police regularly. However, Chow said in her post that she will no longer respect the requirement.

“Several emotional illnesses put my body and mind in a very unstable state,” Chow said in the post.

Chow said it was only this year, after she was accepted by a university in Toronto, that the police agreed to return her passport if she travelled to the Chinese city of Shenzhen. The trip included visits to Chinese tech major Tencent and a “patriotic” exhibition on China’s achievements.

“I don’t want to be forced to do anything any more, and I don’t want to be forced to go to mainland China any more,” she said. “Maybe I won’t return for the rest of my life.”

In a statement issued on Monday, Hong Kong police condemned Chow for “challenging the rule of law”.

“The police urge the person concerned to pull back before it’s too late, instead of choosing a road with no return and bearing the identity of ‘fugitive’ for the rest of her life,” the statement said.

Chow co-founded the now-defunct pro-democracy party Demosisto with fellow activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law. However, the party was disbanded on June 30, 2020, the same day the national security law was enacted.

The enactment of the law has intensified the challenges for the pro-democracy movement, resulting in more than 280 arrests. Joshua Wong is currently in custody, facing a subversion charge that carries the possibility of life imprisonment upon conviction.

Nathan Law sought refuge in the United Kingdom, and a reward of 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,600) was offered by the police in July for information leading to his apprehension.

Beijing contends that the law has restored stability to Hong Kong following the extensive pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies