During anti-government protests in the city in 2019, the 24-year-old activist was sentenced to nearly seven months in prison for her part in an unauthorized assembly. On the second anniversary of the city’s massive democracy marches, Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow was released from prison on Saturday, with police out in force and protests all but outlawed.
Following social media appeals for citizens to mourn the failed democratic marches, 2,000 policemen have been placed on standby. Despite the city having only three local illnesses in the last month, authorities have enforced a coronavirus ban on public meetings.
Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, 24, was released from prison on Saturday after serving seven months over her involvement in a 2019 unlawful assembly. Chow did not speak to the media. Supporters shouted encouragement: "Add oil." Photos: Kenny Huang & Michael Ho/StudioIncendo. pic.twitter.com/ZLog081YKF
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) June 12, 2021
A national security statute enforced by Beijing has criminalized much dissent, and the majority of the city’s democracy leaders have been detained, imprisoned, or gone abroad.
Chow, 24, was surrounded by waiting journalists but remained silent as she was transported away.
Supporters chanted, “Agnes Chow, add oil,” a Cantonese-language word of encouragement that was heard throughout the city throughout the protests.
Some supporters wore black T-shirts and yellow masks, while another carried a yellow umbrella, which has been a symbol of protests in the former British colony since 2014.
A broad crackdown is being implemented
Chow is part of a group of activists who began their political careers as teenagers and have since been a source of inspiration for people who despise Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian authority.
For her part in a 2019 demonstration outside the city’s police headquarters, she served seven months in prison. Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam, two more young campaigners, were jailed in the same case.
Agnes Chow’s release comes at a critical juncture
Thousands of demonstrators encircled the city’s assembly two years ago on June 12 in an attempt to prevent the approval of a bill that would have permitted extraditions to mainland China’s legal system.To disperse the large masses, riot police deployed tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.
Footage of the skirmishes inflamed public outrage and fueled what turned into a seven-month-long, increasingly violent campaign pushing for real democracy.Week after week, massive crowds united in the most serious threat to China’s control since the handover of Hong Kong in 1997.
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The appeal for democracy has been ignored by Beijing’s officials, who have portrayed those who demonstrated as stooges of “foreign forces” seeking to destabilize China.
Since then, they’ve overseen a massive crackdown that has successfully suppressed opposition and altered the formerly vocal semi-autonomous city.
The role of national security law
The national security law has been the spearhead of this assault. More than a hundred people have been arrested as a result of the new rule, including Agnes Chow, who has yet to be charged.
Hundreds of more people have been charged, including Jimmy Lai, a detained pro-democracy media mogul.Most have been denied bail, and if convicted, they might face life in prison.
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Protests have been severely limited in Hong Kong over the last year, although anniversary celebrations have tended to draw attention.
Two members of Student Politicism, a pro-democracy organisation, were arrested on suspicion of promoting an unlicensed assembly on Friday. Authorities prohibited an annual candlelight vigil to remember victims of Beijing’s tragic Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 last week. Many people in Hong Kong, however, continued to show resistance that evening by turning on their phone lights and lighting candles.