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Hong Kong activist Chow recalls terrifying time in China before fleeing

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Prominent pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, who recently revealed that she had left Hong Kong to study in Canada with no plans to return, recalled in an online interview on Wednesday that agreeing to spend time in mainland China before her departure overseas was a high-stakes decision for her.

“It was a gamble for me. I was scared,” Chow said, speaking of her experience of staying in mainland China as a condition imposed by the Hong Kong police for studying overseas.

Agnes Chow speaks in an online interview with Kyodo News on Dec. 6, 2023. (Kyodo)

Two years after her release from a Hong Kong prison where she served time for inciting an unauthorized protest in 2019, Chow announced Sunday through Instagram that she began her studies in Toronto in September and will likely never return home.

She also claimed she had been taken to mainland China and asked to pen letters of repentance by Hong Kong’s national security police in exchange for her passport, which had been confiscated upon her arrest in 2020.

Her trip to the mainland included visits to patriotic exhibitions and the headquarters of Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.

In the interview with Kyodo News, Chow said she felt that she had no say in the matter. “I thought that if I refused, I wouldn’t be able to go to Canada, and I might be arrested.”

“If something were to happen in China, I was not sure if I could even return to Hong Kong. I was worried,” she also said.

Agnes Chow speaks in an online interview with Kyodo News on Dec. 6, 2023. (Kyodo)

Chow was convicted alongside fellow activists Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam over their involvement in the pro-democracy protest on June 21, 2019, in which mostly young protesters besieged the city’s police headquarters.

The protest occurred amid an intensifying anti-government movement that was spurred by a surge of opposition to the Hong Kong government’s now-withdrawn plan to allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Chow was one of the leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement that called for democratic change in the former British colony. Between 2019 and 2020, she, along with Wong and other members of advocacy group Demosisto, worked to bring international attention to the city’s pro-democracy movement.

Her fluent, self-taught Japanese language skills and activism via social media have helped her become popular in Japan, where some media have dubbed her the “Goddess of Democracy.”

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