Germany grants asylum to democracy protestor who fled Hong Kong

Justin Huggler
·3-min read
HONG KONG, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: A member of the press argues with the police during a banned protest in Hong Kong, China, on October 1, 2020. Police deployed 6,000 officers during 71st China's National Day anniversary to counter any illegal protests and assemblies in Hong Kong. (Photo by Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) - Anadolu Agency
HONG KONG, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: A member of the press argues with the police during a banned protest in Hong Kong, China, on October 1, 2020. Police deployed 6,000 officers during 71st China's National Day anniversary to counter any illegal protests and assemblies in Hong Kong. (Photo by Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) - Anadolu Agency

Germany has granted asylum to a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist who fled after being arrested in relation to last year’s mass protests. 

The 22-year-old university student, who has not been named, was held by the Chinese authorities on suspicion of rioting and faced up to ten years in prison.

She is the first person to be granted asylum by Germany in connection with the democracy protests which gripped the city for much of 2019.

Hong Kong police have arrested more than 10,000 people in connection with ongoing democracy protests in the city, including the elderly and children as young as 12. 

“I am grateful to the German government for granting me asylum,” the unnamed activist said in a statement released by Haven Assistance , an activist group.

She fled to Germany via Taiwan a few days after she was arrested at a protest last November, and did not tell her family.

“It felt surreal, and I was very upset that I needed to leave Hong Kong like that as I knew I might never return,” she told Reuters news agency.

The Chinese government denounced the decision to grant her asylum, saying that it was “always opposed to foreign interference in China’s internal affairs on the issue of Hong Kong”.

HONG KONG, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: Riot police officers stand alert during an attempt of illegal protest in Hong Kong, China, on October 1, 2020. Police deployed 6,000 officers during 71st China's National Day anniversary to counter any illegal protests and assemblies in Hong Kong. (Photo by Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) - Anadolu Agency
HONG KONG, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: Riot police officers stand alert during an attempt of illegal protest in Hong Kong, China, on October 1, 2020. Police deployed 6,000 officers during 71st China's National Day anniversary to counter any illegal protests and assemblies in Hong Kong. (Photo by Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) - Anadolu Agency

German authorities declined to comment on the case, citing local privacy laws. The unnamed activist has initially been granted refugee status in Germany for three years, which is standard practice. If she is still deemed to be in danger after three years it will be extended.

Activist groups alleged she was sexually assaulted while staying in a shelter for asylum-seekers and called on Germany to simplify the asylum process for people from Hong Kong.

Germany was the first European country to grant asylum to Hong Kong citizens. In 2018  it granted asylum to Alan Li and Ray Wong, two pro-democracy activists who also faced rioting charges. 

The UK this year offered millions of Hong Kong residents a path to British citizenship in response a new national security law imposed on the territory over the summer.

Britain says the law, which criminalises acts deemed as subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, is a “clear and serious breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an international treaty that guarantees Hong Kong’s unique way of life for at least 50 years after the former colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. 

China has threatened action against countries that grant asylum to people fleeing Hong Kong. Last week, the Chinese ambassador to Canada warned that the “health and safety” of Canadian citizens and businesses in Hong Kong could be at risk if their government granted asylum to pro-democracy activists.