Hong Kong vows to pursue self-exiled activist, Chief Executive John Lee’s remarks came after Agnes Chow, one of the most well-known faces of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, revealed she had traveled to Canada to study and had no plans to return to the city.
Hong Kong Vows to Pursue Self-Exiled Activist
The Hong Kong government has pledged to pursue pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow after she stated she would remain in Canada and not return to the city despite bail conditions.
Chief Executive John Lee told reporters at a regular press conference on Tuesday that Hong Kong police had tried to “afford leniency” to Chow by allowing her to study in Toronto while on bail under the national security statute. However, the attempt to treat the activist leniently ended in “complete deception,” he claimed.
“I believe those involved who tried to afford leniency must find this utterly disappointing,” Lee said, adding that fugitives will be “pursued for life unless they turn themselves in.”
Chow had been on police bail since being arrested in August 2020 alongside pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai on allegations of cooperating with foreign forces, a violation of national security law. She had not been officially charged.
The activist, who was known for her engagement in Hong Kong’s student-led protest activities, remained under the radar after her release from prison in June 2021. She was imprisoned for almost ten months for her role in an unauthorized gathering outside the police headquarters during the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests.
Chow broke her silence on her 27th birthday, revealing on Instagram that she had moved to Toronto to pursue a master’s degree and had opted not to return to Hong Kong.
Openly Displayed Disregard
Following the National Security Department’s criticism, the government promised on Monday that it would “spare no effort in bringing [Chow] to justice.” Chow’s choice to skip bail demonstrated that she never “soberly reflected on her acts,” according to the government.
“Chow Ting’s brazen disrespect for police bail restrictions demonstrated that she is entirely devoid of integrity… “Her hypocrisy, disgrace, and disregard for law and order are laid bare, regardless of the excuses she advanced or how she attempted to deceive and win sympathy,” the official statement said.
The chief executive stated at a press conference on Tuesday that some Hongkongers continue to underestimate the threat that foreign forces pose to national security. He claimed that the “foreign agents” were constantly interfering with Hong Kong’s affairs for personal political gain.
Lee stated that the government must move quickly to establish Article 23 of the Basic Law and finish it by 2024. According to him, the legislation, which states that the government must make laws on its own to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against Beijing, might “link up” with the national security law and build a “solid” system to boost national security safeguards.
Attempts to legislate Article 23 in 2003 were thwarted by massive protests. Successive administrations maintained they had no timeframe for resuming legislative activity until 2020 when Lam said it was “disappointing” that Article 23 had not been passed 23 years after Hong Kong was transferred to China.
Beijing placed a security statute into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution in June 2020, targeting subversion, secession, cooperation with foreign forces, and terrorist activities – broadly defined to encompass damage to transport and other infrastructure.
The move provided police sweeping new powers, resulting in hundreds of prosecutions and new legal precedents, while dozens of civil society organizations vanished. Despite an overall increase in crime, the authorities claim to have returned calm and peace to the city, ignoring criticism from trade partners, the UN, and non-governmental organizations.
Chow is Condemned By Hong Kong
The police did not answer to Associated Press questions on Chow’s journey to mainland China.
In response to a question regarding Chow’s case during a daily briefing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated that Hong Kong is a law-based society in which no one has a privilege beyond the law. He stated that any criminal conduct would be penalized.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government also severely condemned Chow’s actions, saying her credibility had gone “bankrupt.” “Unless fugitives surrender themselves, otherwise they would be pursued for life,” the report stated.
Chow rose to prominence as a student leader alongside other renowned young activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, especially in pro-democracy protests in 2014.
She co-founded the now-defunct pro-democracy group Demosisto with Wong and Bill, but the party was liquidated on June 30, 2020, the same day the security bill was passed.
Wong is now in detention and faces a subversion charge that may lead to life in prison if he is convicted. Law fled to Britain, and Hong Kong police announced a reward of one million Hong Kong dollars ($172,600 Cdn) in July for information leading to his capture.