Hong Kong police vow to hunt exiled activist Agnes Chow ‘for life’
Hong Kong police have officially listed overseas democracy activist Agnes Chow as a wanted person after she skipped bail and fled to Canada in December, warning they will “pursue her for life,” pro-China newspapers and an official police account reported on Wednesday.
“No fugitive should imagine they can evade criminal prosecution by absconding or leaving Hong Kong,” Andrew Kan, deputy commissioner of the city’s national security police, told journalists in comments reported by the Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po and the official Chinese police account on Weibo.
“Hong Kong police officially list Agnes Chow as wanted,” China’s official police account posted on Wednesday. “Unless she surrenders, she will be hunted for the rest of her life.”
Chow, 27, a prominent democracy activist who has already served a seven-month prison sentence for “illegal assembly” linked to protests outside Hong Kong’s police headquarters on June 21, 2019, was out on bail at the time of her departure, for which she obtained a permit to travel from the Hong Kong police.
But soon after leaving the city, she announced via her Instagram account that she wasn’t going back. She later said she is considering whether to apply for asylum in Canada.
Chow, a founding member of the opposition party Demosisto, which dissolved in 2020 when the national security law took effect, had worked alongside jailed activist Joshua Wong in protests and civil disobedience movements dating back to 2012.
After serving her first sentence, she was rearrested under the national security law on suspicion of “collusion with foreign forces,” then released on bail pending investigation, and subjected to a travel ban.
She was forced to go on a patriotic “study trip” to mainland China and kept under surveillance by police, who later allowed to leave the city to study in Canada on condition that she return by the end of 2023. Chow has also spoken out about the impact of that period on her mental health.
Chow has become the 14th overseas activist on the government’s wanted list, although Kan didn’t say whether there is a HK$1 million bounty on her head, as is the case with the other 13.
Police offered bounties for information leading to the arrests of eight wanted activists last July, with a further five activists added to the list in December 2023.
Several of the wanted activists recently held closed-door meetings with State Department officials in Washington, as part of their campaign for further sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials linked to the suppression of the city’s promised freedoms, according to the State Department’s X account.
“Honored to meet with courageous advocates for Hong Kong’s democracy and human rights who’ve been unjustly targeted for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Kritenbrink posted on Feb. 5.
“We call on Hong Kong authorities to immediately cease all efforts to intimidate people in Hong Kong and around the world, including those who call the U.S. home.”
U.S.-based activist Frances Hui, who is Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said she had shared with officials her “personal encounters with CCP’s transnational repression, including receiving physical death threats and being spied on by Chinese agencies.”
She called on Washington to call for the release of specific Hong Kong political prisoners like Jimmy Lai and Joshua Wong, and to consider further sanctions on officials.
“The world is counting on the US to stand on the forefront in supporting human rights and democracy, and most importantly, to protect the people living under its roof who have sought refuge from authoritarianism,” Hui wrote in a post to her X account.
Naturally inclined to emigrate
Fellow wanted activist Elmer Yuen, who is working toward setting up a Hong Kong parliament in exile, said he had called for relaxed immigration rules for Hong Kongers seeking to flee the crackdown to the United States.
“Now that Hong Kong is like this, naturally everyone is inclined to emigrate,” Yuen said. “I want them to relax the rules and allow more Hong Kong people in and make it easier to get a visa.”
“The safe haven policy has not yet been implemented, and we need to go to Congress to work on that further.”
Hong Kong police said on Tuesday they have made 290 arrests so far under the national security law, which bans public criticism of the government and has resulted in the mass arrests and trial of dozens of former opposition activists and the trial of pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai.
Kan said “national security” would remain at the top of a list of police priorities for 2024, when the city’s legislature is expected to pass a second national security law critics say will potentially criminalize more peaceful activities, including making critical or protest-related comments on overseas websites or interviewing exiled activists like Chow.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on the United States “not to be a safe haven for criminals,” and not to support “anti-China disruptors who flee Hong Kong.”
“Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs and do not require the intervention of any external forces,” Wang told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
Translated with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie.