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Agnes Chow at Meiji University on June 12, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. Keith Tsuji/Getty Images

(LifeSiteNews) — A young Catholic freedom activist from Hong Kong, previously arrested for taking part in 2019 pro-democracy events, has announced she is breaking her bail conditions and refusing to return to Hong Kong, thus risking lifelong pursuit by Chinese communist authorities.

In a December 3 post on social media, 27-year-old Agnes Chow revealed news of her plans not to return to her native Hong Kong: she is currently studying in university in Toronto. Chow wrote:

After careful consideration, including considering the situation in Hong Kong, my own safety, my physical and mental health, I decided not to go back and probably never go back for the rest of my life.

Chow was arrested in Hong Kong in August 2020, as authorities clamped down on pro-democracy activists under terms of the draconian National Security Law (NSL). Hong Kong’s media mogul and fellow Catholic Jimmy Lai was arrested on the same day.

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Chow’s arrest was officially for “colluding with foreign forces,” but she was not charged. However, she was separately given a 10-month jail term for her role in what was deemed to be an unauthorized assembly in 2019: when the globally famous pro-democracy protests were taking place, in the wake of increased clampdown on freedoms by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials in Hong Kong. 

She began her term in late 2020, and was released after seven months in June 2021 after which she stepped back from her advocacy, citing the toll it had taken on her personally. 

Styled as the “goddess of democracy” by her considerable following online, and the “real Mulan,” Chow has been firm in citing her Catholic faith as a key element in her activism. Referencing the number of Catholics and Christians in the pro-democracy movement, Chow said that “they put their religious beliefs into their participations in the society and in the social movement.”

She particularly cited being inspired by Hong Kong’s emeritus Cardinal Joseph Zen, calling him “a very influential figure for many of the Catholics in Hong Kong or even all Christians.” 

“In the whole religious circle, he is the most outspoken one,” she said of Zen, who was also arrested under the NSL, though not handed a prison sentence. “He really influenced many Catholics and Christians a lot.”

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Chow had to commit to a series of regular meetings with the police as part of her early release, under the terms of the NSL. In her social media post Sunday, Chow wrote how she had also to sign a form every three months, by which power the authorities confiscated her passport.

Every time I reported to the police, I was worried that I would be arrested again at any time. Even when I returned home, I always imagined that one morning, just like last time, the National Security would knock on my door, try to break the lock, break in and take me away again for a certain offense. Every day, these images would pop into my head, and there was nothing I could do, nothing I could do except cry, break down, tremble, or tell my friends about my fears.

Agnes Chow appearing in court in Hong Kong, November 2020

Chow wrote that this ordeal led to her being diagnosed with “anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression,” all of which “left me in a very unstable state of mind and body, and I knew there was no escape.”

However, she was accepted into a Canadian university this year, with the CCP authorities granting permission providing she fulfill a number of conditions set out by the security services. These included going to the Chinese city of Shenzhen for a day-trip – which the CCP authorities used as a PR move to showcase Chow as supporting them.

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Chow stated she was accompanied by a number of police officers on the trip, and photographed on a visit to a museum to learn about the “development of China and the Communist Party, and the ‘splendent achievements’ of leaders of past generations.”

After fulfilling the trip, and taking a number of extra photos with the CCP personnel – which Chow said could, if necessary, be used to show her alignment with the “patriotic” side, i.e. CCP – her passport was returned the day before she left for Toronto.

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Despite being ordered to return to Hong Kong during the academic holidays, Chow declared that she intended to stay in Toronto. She wrote that it was likely she would be banned from leaving the country, and that “if this goes on, body and mind will collapse even if I am safe.”

I have felt for years how precious freedom from fear is. There is still a lot of unknowns in the future, but what can be known is that I finally don’t have to worry about being arrested anymore and can say what I want to do. While studying and healing in Canada, I also hope to regain the interest that I put down due to emotional illness and stress, and build my own rhythm. Freedom is not easy to come, in the daily fear of fear, more cherish all those who have not forgotten themselves, care about themselves, love themselves. May we be reunited in the near future and hug each other well.

Hong Kong Police responded with a statement alluding to Chow, although not naming her. They called it an “irresponsible action which is against and challenging the rule of law.”

The authorities wrote that “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.”