HK activist Agnes Chow ‘considering’ asylum in Canada

Her remarks came a day after she announced her departure from the city to pursue education in Toronto.
By Taejun Kang for RFA
2023.12.03
Taipei, Taiwan
HK activist Agnes Chow ‘considering’ asylum in Canada In this Sept. 28, 2019, photo, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, stands next to an election campaign poster of pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, in Hong Kong.
Kin Cheung/AP

Updated Dec. 04, 2023, 02:15 a.m. ET.

Agnes Chow, a prominent pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong who was imprisoned as part of a security crackdown imposed by China, said she is considering whether to apply for asylum or not in Canada, hinting that she would do what she could to bring attention to her native city. 

Her remarks, made during an interview with TV Tokyo on Dec. 4, came a day after her announcement that she had left Hong Kong for Canada due to mental health issues caused by duress from authorities.

In the interview, Chow, a 27-year-old former member of a dispersed group of younger activists that propelled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement alongside Joshua Wong, said she was “considering” whether to apply for asylum or not, but the broadcaster stated that she is “effectively in exile.”

When asked whether she would be involved in political activities to promote democracy in Hong Kong from abroad in the future, Chow declined to say, but hinted at the possibility that she would do what she could to bring attention to Hong Kong.

Chow announced via Instagram on Sunday that she had left the city to pursue education in Canada, from which she may never return. 

The democracy group of which she was a member, Demosisto, disbanded mere hours after China enacted a national security law in 2020 that has been deemed a repressive instrument by some Western governments. The law has resulted in more than 280 arrests, but Beijing claims that it has stabilized the city following massive pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.

In November 2020, Chow received a ten-month prison sentence in relation to a charge of unauthorized assembly. Following the completion of her jail term, she was released on police parole while her passport was seized on suspicion of a national security offense.

In her first public statement since the release from prison in June 2021, Chow detailed how she had remained under “supervision” from the authorities and such pressures led her to be diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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

Chow added, the police consented to return her passport if she traveled to the Chinese city of Shenzhen this year, subsequent to her acceptance to a university in Toronto.

Visits to Chinese technology behemoth Tencent and a “patriotic” exhibition commemorating China’s accomplishments were included in the itinerary.

“I was forced to go to mainland China in exchange for the opportunity to study abroad,” she wrote.

Later this month, Chow was scheduled to report to the security police in Hong Kong; however, she chose not to return in the interest of her own safety and wellbeing.

“Maybe I won’t return for the rest of my life,” she added.

However, she said she did not have the intention of abandoning her bail at the outset and had even bought a return air ticket to Hong Kong after arriving in Canada.

“If anyone wants to say that I have made every effort to deceive national security, that would be an absolutely wrong statement,” she added.

Chow did not say whether she would cut ties with her family but added that over the past few years she had learnt that freedom was “such a precious thing,” and that she finally no longer had to worry about whether she would be arrested or not.

Hong Kong police on Monday “strongly condemned” Chow’s move, without mentioning her name.

“Police have noted someone’s recent claim of jumping Police bail in social media and strongly condemn the irresponsible action which is against and challenging the rule of law, ” the police said in a statement.

“Police urge the woman to immediately turn back before it is too late and not to choose a path of no return. Otherwise, she will bear the stigma of ‘fugitive’ for the rest of her life.”

Edited by Mike Firn.

Updated to include statement from Hong Kong police.

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