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Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow jumps bail to stay in Toronto

TORONTO — A prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist says she's decided to live permanently in Canada, after jumping bail from the Chinese territory.

Agnes Chow says on social media she plans to stay in Toronto, where she has been studying for the past three months at a university she doesn't name, and may never return to her home city.

Chow, who served several months in prison for organizing unauthorized protests and was on bail for national security offences, said on Instagram on Sunday that she had been due to return to Hong Kong this month to check in with officers.

She said in posts marking her 27th birthday that she purchased return plane tickets but recently decided to stay in Canada to recover her mental health after what she described as years of psychological trauma.

Chow said she had been living under constant fear of being detained again after her release from prison in June 2021 for her role in anti-government protests.

The Hong Kong Police Force says in a written statement that doesn't name Chow that it strongly condemns the "irresponsible action" taken by a woman jumping bail on national security charges and what they called "collusion with external elements."

"Police urge the woman to immediately turn back before it is too late and not to choose a path of no return," the statement says. "Otherwise, she will bear the stigma of 'fugitive' for the rest of her life."

Chow said she had been required to check-in with Hong Kong police every three months, and that authorities withheld her passport until the day before she flew to Canada earlier this year.

Canada's extradition treaty with Hong Kong has been suspended since July 2020 after China imposed national security laws giving police more power to clamp down on anti-government protests and other activities it considers the work of hostile foreign powers.

Massive protests in Hong Kong in 2019 triggered a crackdown on dissent in the former British colony, and several protest leaders now live in Canada.

"I've deeply felt in the last few years how valuable it is to have freedom without fear," Chow said on Instagram.

"There are still a lot of unknowns in the future, but (I) know that I finally don't have to worry about whether or not I'll be arrested, and I can say what I want to say (and) do what I want to do."

— By Chuck Chiang in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

The Canadian Press