Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow announces decision not to return to Hong Kong for National Security Law reporting, pursues studies in Canada

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Agnes Chow

3rd December 2023 – (Hong Kong) In a recent announcement on social media, Agnes Chow, former member and standing committee member of Demosisto, a now-disbanded pro-democracy party in Hong Kong, revealed her decision not to return to Hong Kong to fulfil the reporting requirements of the National Security Law. Chow, who has been studying in Toronto, Canada since September this year, was originally planning to return to Hong Kong by the end of December to report to law enforcement authorities. However, citing concerns for her mental and emotional well-being, she has decided against it. It should be noted that Chow had already purchased a plane ticket for her return to Hong Kong.

On her birthday today, Agnes Chow took to the internet to express her current location in Toronto. She explained that in early July this year, she was informed by national security personnel that if she wanted to pursue her studies in Canada, she would need to be accompanied and protected by Hong Kong national security officers during a one-day visit to mainland China. After completing the required visit, her passport would be returned, and she would only need to report to Hong Kong during university holidays. Chow acknowledged that she had no right to refuse the national security arrangements, stating, “In the face of national security, I actually have no right to refuse.” In August, under the supervision of five Hong Kong national security officers, she visited mainland China and was taken to visit an exhibition on China’s reform and opening up, where she learned about the country’s development under the Communist Party and the achievements of past leaders. She was also briefed on the technological advancements of the country.

During her entire trip in mainland China, Chow did not have any meetings with government officials or party members, nor did she undergo any questioning by the Ministry of Public Security. However, she expressed a constant feeling of being under surveillance, stating that during significant events such as the visit to the exhibition, she was asked to take photos in front of the exhibition panels and her accompanying driver from Shenzhen continuously took pictures of her. She expressed concern that if she remained silent about the situation, these photos might one day be used as evidence of her “patriotism.”

After returning to Hong Kong, Chow was once again asked by national security officials to write several letters expressing gratitude for the arrangements made by law enforcement agencies and her understanding of the great development of the motherland. She also revealed that she left Hong Kong in mid-September to pursue her studies in Toronto, Canada. She received her passport the day before her departure. In her post, she also disclosed that she suffers from emotional disorders.

It is worth noting that Chow had previously been arrested on 30th August 2019 for allegedly participating in and inciting an unauthorized assembly at the Hong Kong Police Headquarters in Wan Chai on 21st June 2019. On the same day, several high-profile pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong, including Joshua Wong, Au Nok-hin, Andy Chan, and Jeremy Tam, were also arrested. Amnesty International described the arrests as a severe assault on freedom of expression. Chow pleaded guilty to the charges on 6th July 2020 and was formally convicted on 5th August 2020.

Along with Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam, Chow had been placed in custody until a trial scheduled for 2nd December 2020. They pleaded guilty during a pre-trial hearing on 23rd November 2020 regarding their involvement in a demonstration outside a Hong Kong police headquarters in June 2019. Thousands of protesters had demanded an investigation into the police’s use of force during that time. Chow was remanded at the Tai Lam Centre for Women in Tuen Mun until the trial.

On 2nd December 2020, Agnes Chow was sentenced to 10 months in jail, while Joshua Wong received a sentence of 13.5 months, and Ivan Lam received 7 months. The judge in the trial, West Kowloon Magistrate Wong Sze-lai, accused the defendants of calling on protesters to besiege the police headquarters and chanting slogans that undermined the police force.

Initially, Chow was imprisoned at the medium-security Lo Wu Correctional Institution but was later transferred to the maximum-security Tai Lam Centre for Women after being classified as a Category A prisoner. She served a six-month sentence and was released from prison on 12th June 2021.

Following the enactment of the national security law, Chow was arrested again on 10 August 2020, reportedly on charges of violating the law. Her arrest coincided with a mass arrest of various pro-democracy figures, including media mogul Jimmy Lai.