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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Keep Agnes Chow Free from Hong Kong Government’s Oppression

Police threaten Agnes Chow "will be pursued for the rest of her life" under their draconian security law. Her "crime": having fought for Hong Kong’s democracy.

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Agnes Chow answers questions during a January 2020 interview in Hong Kong. (©Sankei by Kinya Fujimoto)

Agnes Chow, 27, is wanted by the Hong Kong police. The well-known advocate of Hong Kong democracy and fluent speaker of Japanese is now in de facto exile in Canada. 

Hong Kong police issued a warrant for her arrest after she decided to remain free in Canada rather than return to her hometown. She would be tried under draconian national security laws if she returned. 

The international community must intensify monitoring of actions by China and the Hong Kong government to ensure Ms Chow's safety is not endangered. 

Panoramic view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak (© Sankei by Shinya Iwakawa)

From a Hong Kong Jail to Canada

Agnes Chow was originally arrested in August 2020 on suspicion of having violated the Hong Kong National Security Law. She was later released on bail, with the condition that she had to report regularly to the local police. 

Chow left Hong Kong in September 2023 to study in Canada. However, she did not return for a scheduled appearance before the authorities on December 28. 

She explained her concerns as follows: "If I return to Hong Kong, I will probably never be able to leave again."

In turn, the Hong Kong Police National Security Department (NSD) issued a warrant for Chow's arrest. Moreover, they vowed to spare no effort to return her to Hong Kong. A spokesperson threatened that unless she turns herself in voluntarily, "she will be pursued for the rest of her life."

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Such egregious language and actions trample on the basic human rights of Chow, who says that she simply "wants to live free." They also clearly reflect the inherent nature of the Chinese Communist Party, which plays the tune that the Hong Kong authorities dance to.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Li Jiachao and others hold a press conference. They announced their plan to enact a new National Security Ordinance on January 30, 2024. (Photo provided Hong Kong SAR via Kyodo)

Safeguarding Freedom and Human Rights

The international community must work together to safeguard the freedom and human rights of the people of Hong Kong. Chow and other citizens are being oppressed by a national security law dictated by the Chinese government. 

In the first place, there is no legitimate justification for the repression that Chow has undergone. After all, what crime has she committed? Three and a half years have passed since her arrest. However, the Hong Kong police have still not made public her alleged offenses. 

Coincidentally, a court in Beijing just handed down a suspended death sentence for an Australian writer born in China. He had been taken into custody on suspicion of espionage, even though the reasons for his indictment were never made public. 

Hounding Chow ー and other democracy advocates ー highlights the authoritarian politics of the Chinese Communist Party. It makes clear the reality of the accelerating "Sinicization" of Hong Kong. This represents the utter collapse of the "one country, two systems" agreement intended to protect freedom in Hong Kong.  

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow speaks during an interview from Toronto, Ontario, Canada December 4, 2023 in this still image from video. (©Reuters TV via REUTERS)

The Face of Freedom

Agnes Chow's international prominence has been extremely high ever since the "Umbrella Movement" for Hong Kong democracy in 2014. She was even lauded as "Hong Kong's Goddess of Democracy." In the days to come, criticism of the Hong Kong authorities is certain to grow in Canada, the United States, and European countries.  

Chow has previously visited Japan and has many ties with the country. Consequently, many Japanese remain interested in what happens to her. 

Since the governments of China and Hong Kong refuse to soften their hardline stance, the Japanese government should respond resolutely with appropriate actions. That must include a statement of protest in response to the hard line stance of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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