Agnes Chow: ‘Mulan of Hong Kong’ refuses to return from Canada for date with police

File: Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts to face charges related to illegal assembly stemming from 2019, in Hong Kong (REUTERS)
File: Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts to face charges related to illegal assembly stemming from 2019, in Hong Kong (REUTERS)

Agnes Chow, one of Hong Kong's best-known pro-democracy activists, says she has breached a bail order to report to police in the city and will instead stay in Canada.

Ms Chow, who was jailed for 10 months for taking part in Hong Kong’s 2019 protests, announced on Instagram on Sunday that she would be continuing her studies in Canada and would not report back in Hong Kong to meet her bail conditions, adding that she might now never be able to return to the city.

Ms Chow was a core member of the now-disbanded pro-democracy group Demosisto, one of the main forces behind the 2019 movement in the city.

She was arrested in 2020 under the draconian Beijing-imposed national security law, implemented a year after the protests in an effort to throttle dissent.

Critics of the government say the law, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, has been weaponised to stifle protest and used to arrest more than 280 people.

Several activists, including Nathan Law, Anna Kwok and Finn Lau, have fled abroad fearing arrest since the law was implemented.

Chow was released from prison in 2021 on the condition she check in with police regularly, and her passport was confiscated.

She has been compared online and in media reports to Mulan – the Chinese folk heroine who fought to save her family and country.

She said a campaign of pressure from the Chinese authorities had caused her "mental illness", forcing her to leave the country and potentially never return. She said it was as if the police wanted to remind her that she hadn't regained her freedom after being released from prison, and to "not try to do anything".

Ms Chow said she was only allowed to have her passport back this year after she agreed to take part in a propaganda tour of Shenzhen in mainland China accompanied by national security officers.

The activist said she was asked to sign a letter of "repentance" and thank the police in writing for making her "arrangements so that I can understand the great development of my motherland".

Ms Chow left Hong Kong in mid-September to study at a university in Toronto, just a day after receiving her passport.

"I don't want to be forced to do things that I don't want to do anymore and be forced to visit mainland China again. If it continues, my body and my mind will collapse even though I am safe," she wrote.

She was due to report to Hong Kong's national security police this month but decided against it. "Maybe I won't return for the rest of my life," she wrote.

Ms Chow said in an interview broadcast on TV Tokyo on Monday that she was still weighing her next steps, including the option of seeking asylum in Canada. Asked whether she would take up political activism there, she said she wanted to do something in Hong Kong's interest.

The Hong Kong police said it "strongly condemned" Ms Chow's decision, saying it was "against and challenging the rule of law".

"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," the police said in a statement.

The police earlier in July placed bounties on eight pro-democracy activists who fled the city into self-imposed exile.