Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow said Sunday she has left the territory to study in Canada and has no plans to return, two years after her release from prison where she served time for inciting an unauthorized protest in 2019.
In her first public Instagram post since her release in 2021, the 27-year-old claimed she had been taken to mainland China by Hong Kong's national security police.
Chow said she was asked to write letters of repentance for what she did as well as expressing gratitude to the authorities in exchange for the return of her passport, which was 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. She began her studies in Toronto in September.
As per an agreement with the police, Chow was originally scheduled to report back to Hong Kong in December, but has decided to remain in Canada for fear of being detained.
"I don't want to be forced to do what I don't want to do anymore, and I don't want to be forced to go to mainland China again," she wrote, "if it goes on like this, even if I am safe, my body and mind will collapse." Chow added she will likely never return to Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong government on Monday condemned Chow's decision in a statement, calling her behavior "irresponsible."
"The police call on (Chow) to step back from the brink," the statement said, urging her not to "take a road of no return and bear the name of 'fugitive' for the rest of her life."
In response to a question about Chow's post, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a press conference that the rights of Hong Kong residents are fully protected under the rule of law. However, he emphasized that no one has extrajudicial privileges, saying, "Any illegal and criminal acts must be punished by law."
Since her release, Chow said she has suffered from depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, fearing that the national security police would one day show up at her door to take her away once again.
"The mixture of several emotional illnesses put my mind and body in a very unstable state, and I also knew there was nowhere for me to escape," she wrote.
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."