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HK vows to pursue democracy activist 'for life'

Agnes Chow has said she would not travel back to Hong Kong from Canada to meet her bail conditions
Pro-democracy activists Agnes Chow (center) and Joshua Wong (right) speak to the press after they were released on bail at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts in Hong Kong on Aug. 30, 2019

Pro-democracy activists Agnes Chow (center) and Joshua Wong (right) speak to the press after they were released on bail at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts in Hong Kong on Aug. 30, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Published: December 05, 2023 04:51 AM GMT
Updated: December 05, 2023 04:56 AM GMT

The Hong Kong government vowed Monday to pursue pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, who was jailed for her role in massive 2019 protests, "for life" after she fled to Canada and said she would not return.

Chow revealed on social media Sunday -- her 27th birthday -- that she would not travel back to Hong Kong later this month to meet her bail conditions.

She said her decision came after "considering the situation in Hong Kong, my personal safety, my physical and mental health".

In a statement issued Monday evening, the Hong Kong government condemned "the shameful acts of Chow… of absconding to avoid legal responsibilities".

It added that Chow "is completely devoid of integrity" and "her hypocrisy, disgrace, and disregard for law and order are laid bare".

"Fugitives will be pursued for life unless they turn themselves in."

Chow was one of the best-known young faces of the 2012, 2014 and 2019 protest movements against Beijing's increasingly authoritarian rule in Hong Kong.

She spent around seven months behind bars for her role in a protest outside the city's police headquarters in 2019 when huge crowds rallied week after week in the most serious challenge to China's rule since Hong Kong's 1997 handover from Britain.

On Sunday, she published two posts breaking the silence she had kept since she was released more than two and half years ago.

She revealed that she had been allowed to leave for Canada in mid-September for university studies, but that she was required to return to Hong Kong later this month as part of her bail conditions.

"I don't want to be forced to do anything anymore, and I don't want to be forced to go to mainland China anymore," she said.

Chow was one of nine people arrested in 2020 alongside pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai accused of "colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security".

The offense carries up to life in jail under the sweeping national security law Beijing imposed on the financial hub in mid-2020 to quell political dissent.

The security police seized Chow's passport and released her on conditions including reporting regularly to the force.

Chow wrote that, in early July, the police offered to return her passport if she traveled with them to Shenzhen.

She agreed, and in mid-August spent a day with five police officers in the mainland city, where she was shown an exhibition of China's achievements and the headquarters of tech giant Tencent -- where she was asked to pose for photos.

"I could feel that I had been watched throughout the whole trip," Chow wrote.

Earlier on Monday the national security police said they had returned Chow's passport because she could prove her admission to an overseas university and had been "cooperative" about reporting back.

Chow's fellow activist leader Joshua Wong was jailed in Hong Kong for "subversion" while Nathan Law has fled abroad with a HK$1 million (US$128,000) bounty over his head.

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