People across Japan on Tuesday came out in support of Agnes Chow, the pro-democracy activist who was arrested in Hong Kong a day earlier for allegedly breaching a sweeping national security law imposed by China.
The hashtag #FreeAgnes was trending on Japanese Twitter in an outpouring of support for the 23-year-old, who frequently tweets in Japanese and has appeared on TV programs here.
Japan's top government spokesman voiced "grave concern" over the situation in the semiautonomous territory without directly addressing her arrest along with nine others in the highest-profile bust since the national security law entered into force on June 30.
"Agnes is a friend who has fought alongside us...We need the support of everyone in Japan," activist Nathan Law tweeted along with pictures of her being taken away by police. "#FreeAgnes. Let's trend it!"
【拡散希望】アグネスは一緒に闘ってきた友人の一人です。独裁政権である中国共産党(CCP)は国安法違反「国家分裂」の容疑で23歳の女性を逮捕。彼女は無罪だが、無期刑を受ける可能性がある。— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 😷 (@nathanlawkc) August 10, 2020
The hashtag had been used by more than 178,000 Twitter accounts as of Tuesday afternoon, among them public figures such as actor Takeshi Tsuruno and author Hirotada Ototake. At least another 57,000 had used a hashtag saying in Japanese, "We protest the arrest of Agnes Chow."
Ototake, who was born without limbs and known for his autobiographical book "No One's Perfect," tweeted, "What we can do now is speak up and protest. Everyone, please face this news head-on and don't be a bystander."
Chow was arrested for allegedly calling on foreign countries to impose sanctions on China on her social media accounts, according to her Twitter account. Also among those arrested on Monday were media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper and one of Hong Kong's most prominent critics of the Communist Party, and his two sons.
Asked about the arrests in a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated the Japanese government's "grave concern" over the situation in Hong Kong and stressed the importance of the former British colony developing "democratically and in a stable manner" under the "one country, two systems" policy.
Suga said Japan has repeatedly voiced its concerns to China through diplomatic channels and will continue to work with other countries on the matter.