Chief Executive John Lee expresses disappointment over Agnes Chow’s flight

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Agnes Chow (left) and John Lee (right).

5th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) In the wake of activist Agnes Chow Ting’s decision to evade bail and abscond from the city, Chief Executive John Lee expressed his disappointment on Tuesday. He noted that such actions undermine the attempts of those who “try to afford leniency” and vowed that local police would “consolidate experience” from the incident.

Lee did not confirm whether “repentance letters” or a “patriotic” educational visit to mainland China were part of the conditions for Chow’s bail, enabling her to leave the city to study in Canada. However, he did stress that this incident demonstrated a severe underestimation of the national security threats in Hong Kong by certain residents.

Lee criticised Chow’s flouting of bail terms as a stark display of a lack of integrity, going so far as to label her a liar and a hypocrite. He emphasised the role of law enforcement agencies in handling such matters and remained reticent on the specifics of Chow’s bail terms.

Chow, previously detained in 2020 for allegedly plotting to collude with foreign forces by advocating sanctions on Hong Kong, had her passport temporarily confiscated by the police. Despite this, she managed to relocate to Canada for her studies and recently announced via social media that she has no intention of returning to Hong Kong.

Lee commented on the city’s lenient approach towards Chow, stating that this leniency had resulted in complete deception. He underscored the need for Hong Kong citizens to remain vigilant about the ongoing threats posed by foreign forces to national security.

The Chief Executive also reasserted his commitment to expand the scope of national security offences in Hong Kong as per Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. He argued that this would be in addition to the Beijing-decreed security legislation imposed in 2020.

Given recent events, it has been suggested that the Hong Kong authorities should consider adopting stricter exit control measures akin to those in mainland China, particularly for individuals facing charges under the National Security Law. Not only would this uphold state sovereignty, but it would also prevent the evasion of prosecution by leaving Hong Kong, as exemplified by Chow’s case.

Critics might view this as authoritarian overreach, but it should be noted that several developed nations, including the U.K., Canada, and even the United States, enforce forms of exit controls when necessary. Hong Kong’s adoption of similar measures would not be groundbreaking.

The selective targeting of specific threats to national security, coupled with proper judicial oversight and appeals, can prevent the misuse of these exit bans. Strengthening exit restrictions reasonably upholds both the rule of law and sovereignty, especially considering the external forces currently agitating against Hong Kong’s stability.