Police in Hong Kong vowed on Friday to bring pro-Democracy activist Agnes Chow Ting to justice after she announced she will not be returning to Hong Kong to face trial for charges related to the 2019 pro-democracy protests in the former British colony following it’s steady reintroduction into Chinese control.
Chow Skips Bail:
In accordance with a preset arrangement with law enforcement, Chow was initially slated to return to Hong Kong on Thursday, where she would face trial after she made bail. However, she declared instead that she would stay in Canada due to concerns Chinese authorities would pass on a harsh sentence for what many Chinese officials have referred to as treason and rebellion.
On Friday morning, Chow’s parents were summoned to the Tai Po Police Station to aid the police inquiry, given that her mother had served as the guarantor for the 27-year-old’s bail, as reported by local media. The duo was observed departing from the police station around noon, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
Leading to Chow’s Arrest:
The so-called “Goddess of Democracy” was arrested in 2019 under charges related to her participation and alleged leadership in organizing unauthorized assemblies. The protests were initially triggered by the proposed extradition bill, which many feared could lead to individuals being sent to mainland China for trial. The movement evolved into a broader call for democracy, autonomy, and an investigation into alleged police misconduct.
Later, with the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong of June 2020, Chow faced additional charges related to collusion with foreign forces and other major offenses under this new law.
Chow was a member of the now-disbanded political group Demosisto, which called for self-determination for Hong Kong. Other members of Demosisto included Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam, who were both also arrested for participating in the movement. In one particular case related to their charges, the group laid siege to the police headquarters in Hong Kong.
Government Response and a Brief History of the Hong Kong Crackdown:
Hong Kong police told the Japanese-based Kyodo News, “Fugitives will be pursued for life unless they turn themselves in before it is too late for regrets,” adding that fugitives “should not have any delusion that they could evade legal liabilities by absconding from Hong Kong,” in what they described as a “shameful act”.
In June 2020, Hong Kong, with assistance from Beijing, implemented the National Security Law in response to widespread protests. The National Security Law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, raising concerns about its impact on freedom of expression and political dissent in Hong Kong. The law has led to many arrests and an increase in police authority towards dissidents while also serving as additional charges. Many critics have argued that these charges are politically motivated and many of the trials are viewed as unfair. Especially following the 2019 extradition bill, which would see Hong Kong protestors sent to China for trial, many called into question the fairness and validity of the independent Hong Kong legal system. The extradition bill was recalled after widespread protest.
Hong Kong has cracked down heavily on proponents of democratic reform in recent years. Several pro-democracy politicians have been removed from the Legislature and the government has made extensive use of emergency powers to bypass the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Many of the removed politicians have also since been arrested.
Many pro-democracy activists championed the flags of the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan during their rallies and have since fled to these nations for fear of being arrested in Hong Kong.