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EDITORIAL | Protect Hong Kong Activist from Retaliation by Authorities

Agnes Chow was challenging not the law, but rather the "rule of terror" gripping Hong Kong today under chief executive John Lee and the Chinese Communist Party.



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)

Agnes Chow, 27, a well-known Hong Kong democracy activist who is fluent in Japanese, announced in September that she was leaving Hong Kong to study at a graduate school in Canada. Released conditionally on parole, she was due to appear in person and report to the Hong Kong police at the end of December. Now she has decided not to return to her hometown.

Chow has, in effect, become a de facto political exile. As she put it in an Instagram post, she made the very difficult decision after "considering the situation in Hong Kong, my personal safety, [and] my physical and mental health." 

In her hometown, various civil liberties have been curtailed since the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) went into effect. Were Chow to return home, she would probably never be allowed to leave again. She therefore obviously is reluctant to lose her newly granted freedom. From that standpoint, the path she has chosen seems obvious. 

Police officers stand guard in front of a polling station visited by Hong Kong's top government official, John Lee, on December 10. (©Kyodo)

The 'Sinicization of Hong Kong'

Be that as it may, Hong Kong police officials have criticized democracy activists for "irresponsible behavior that challenges the law." A spokesperson with the Chinese foreign ministry emphasized, "No individual is entitled to extra-legal privileges and criminal acts will unfailingly be punished." 

If that is true, we would ask, "were those responsible for ordering the armed repression of the pro-democracy movement during the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre so punished?" 

And, "did those responsible for ordering security forces to crack down with excessive violence during the series of demonstrations protesting against the Hong Kong government and Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong during 2019 and 2020 have to face the law?" 

What Agnes Chow was challenging was not the law, but rather the "rule of terror" gripping Hong Kong today. Now, she has raised the veil on how the authorities do their dirty business. 

Chow has once again brought into stark relief the present situation, in which the "Sinicization of Hong Kong" means the jailing of individuals seeking democracy and restrictions on freedom of movement. In addition, her case highlights the transportation of citizens of Hong Kong to China for "patriotic education."

Hong Kong's top government chief executive John Lee departs after holding a press conference at the vote counting office on December 11. (©Kyodo)

Keeping a Watch on John Lee's Threats

Then there is the election for the Legislative Council, LegCo, that took place on December 10. Turnout for the minority of races in which the members are directly elected by the citizens of Hong Kong was at a record low of 27.5%. That served to show that Chinese rule has failed to gain much trust among citizens of Hong Kong.

Chow now lives in Toronto. When she was asked what her dream for the future is, she replied simply, "To live in freedom." We must not forget that there are countless other "Agnes Chows" still living in Hong Kong. 

John Lee, Beijing's handpicked chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, has directly threatened her. He declared: "The police will do their utmost to pursue her, to arrest her. Fugitives will be pursued for life unless they turn themselves in." 

Japan and the rest of the international community should face up to the situation in Hong Kong, which Agnes Chow demonstrated firsthand. It is up to us to keep a close watch on the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to ensure that they do not retaliate against Chow.


(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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