Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow was released on Saturday (12) after nearly seven months in prison for participating in anti-government protests in 2019.
Chow, 24, was sentenced along with two other well-known activists, Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam, who are still in prison. She celebrated “the end of the agony” on Instagram and said she wanted to recover from months of detention, which “left her very weak”.
The reason for the early release of Chow, who had been sentenced to 10 months, was not disclosed. The Hong Kong Corrections Department did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
The young woman is part of the generation of activists who began militarily in politics while still a teenager, with movements such as the “Umbrella Revolution” in 2014. Her release comes exactly two years after the major demonstrations in favor of democracy, an anniversary which puts the former British colony under pressure.
About 2,000 police officers were put on alert on Saturday as calls for demonstrations were posted on social networks.
Authorities maintained their ban on demonstrations, claiming to be fighting the coronavirus pandemic, although only three new cases were identified last month.
Many activists have been arrested in recent months, and the opposition is now criminalized by new repressive laws imposed by the Beijing government.
On June 12, 2019, thousands of people surrounded the Hong Kong parliament building in an attempt to block passage of a law promoting extraditions, including those of opponents, to mainland China. The brutal police dispersion of the demonstrations did not prevent a strong mobilization for more than seven months.
Chinese authorities refused to budge and imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, which resulted in the arrest of more than 100 people, including Agnes Chow.
Dozens of activists have been brought to justice, including media mogul Jimmy Lai. Most are not eligible for bail and face life imprisonment.
Joshua Wong, the most famous of these young people, recently saw his sentence increased by a new conviction for calling a rally in 2020 on June 4 to mark the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Agnes Chow has so far served her sentence only for the facts of June 12, 2019 and risks being charged again by subsequent events.
Demonstrations are now almost all banned, but birthdays like this Saturday remain tense times.
On Friday, two activists from a pro-democracy group were arrested after being accused of calling a protest.
Authorities last week banned events marking the Tiananmen Square massacre and police blocked access to Victoria Park, where a vigil has been held every year for 32 years.
Many in Hong Kong did not give up protesting and lit candles or their cell phones in adjacent streets and throughout the city.