BANGKOK (AP) — Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, who left Hong Kong for Canada and will not return to fulfill her bail conditions, said Thursday she still feels under police watch even after moving to Toronto of Chinese territory.

Chow is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent young activists and was arrested in 2020 under a Beijing-imposed national security law following anti-government protests in 2019. Although she was not charged and was released on bail, police confiscated her passport and returned it this year under certain conditions, including a visit to authorities in mainland China.

Chow said in an interview with The Associated Press that Hong Kong’s national security police called her twice to question her about her status after she left the city in September for further studies.

“They keep trying to make me feel like I’m under their eyes,” she said.

The intimidation of Hong Kong dissidents like Chow reflected the severe erosion of freedoms promised to the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997. But both the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong welcomed the security law because it brought stability back to the city.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong Prime Minister John Lee criticized Chow’s decision not to return to Hong Kong to fulfill her bail conditions. He called Chow a “liar” and said police’s attempt to offer her lenient treatment ultimately led to her being deceived. Chow would be prosecuted for life if she did not turn herself in, he added.

But Chow rejected the government’s claims that police had offered her leniency, insisting that she only felt her personal safety and freedom violated. She said the restrictions on her daily life imposed by authorities had taken a toll on her mental health.

She said in an Instagram post on Sunday that her passport was only returned to her so she could pursue a master’s degree after she agreed to go to mainland China with national security authorities.

During that trip in August, she said, she visited an exhibition about China’s achievements and the headquarters of tech giant Tencent. She was asked to pose for photos. Police later asked her to write a thank you letter before returning her passport, she added.

Chow thought for a “really long time” about whether she should publish her experience. She said her trip showed that Hong Kong police had adopted more of the style of authorities in mainland China to “control” and “intimidate” political dissidents.

“If I did not make my story, these photos, these letters public, they could one day become proof of my patriotism. That’s something I don’t want to see,” she said.

Police and Lee did not immediately respond to the AP’s request for comment.

They have condemned her decision to leave the country. Lee stressed Tuesday that Chow was arrested for allegedly collaborating with foreign forces and that those who committed the crime have become foreign agents.

However, Chow called the allegations “ridiculous” and pointed out that no charges had been filed against her three years after her arrest. She said her decision to move to Canada and not return to Hong Kong was her own decision alone.

“So we could clearly see that the national security law has become a political tool of the agency to fabricate accusations and intimidate political dissidents,” she said.

She said she was prevented from contacting her friends in Demosisto, a now-defunct political party she founded with other prominent activists Nathan Law and Joshua Wong.

Demosisto was dissolved on June 30, 2020, the same day the security law was enacted. Wong is in custody on a subversion charge that could carry a life sentence if convicted. Law fled to Britain and Hong Kong police have offered a reward of one million Hong Kong dollars ($127,600) for information leading to his arrest.

Even though Chow is now thousands of miles away from her hometown, she remains worried about her safety.

She pointed to China’s alleged “secret police stations abroad” that have been reported across North America, Europe and other countries. China denies that these are police stations, saying they exist primarily to provide citizen services such as driver’s license renewals.

“But at least I could do what I wanted to do. I could say whatever I want to say,” she said. “I was finally able to start healing my mental health issues.”


Associated Press writer Kanis Leung in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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