Hong Kong Activist Chow Was Released on Bail

While the world focuses on the detention of Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, it’s the plight of 23-year-old activist Agnes Chow that has made the battle over human rights in the city personal for many in Japan.

Chow, a Japanese speaker who helped galvanize support for the pro-democracy movement, has been dubbed “the goddess of democracy” by local media, in a reference to a statue created by protesters at Tiananmen Square.

The activist’s arrest was front page news in local papers Tuesday and the hashtag #FreeAgnes trended on Japanese Twitter. TV showed a masked and bespectacled Chow being pushed into a van and driven away in the dark.

She was released about a day later, prompting a fresh hashtag that can be translated as “Agnes Chow freed on bail” to trend on Twitter on Wednesday in Japan.

A cross-party group of about 30 Japanese lawmakers condemned the arrests and said in a statement Wednesday “the government of Hong Kong is attempting to suppress pro-democracy movements by pressuring citizens of Hong Kong and media organizations.”

The Japan Parliamentary Alliance on China also urged Tokyo to deny any requests for evidence from China and Hong Kong based on the new national security law for the city.

Chow’s detention could prove a further blow to ties between the two countries. Beijing’s clampdown on Hong Kong, as well as China’s ratcheting up of tensions around disputed East China Sea islands and its standoff with the U.S., had already shaken the relationship between Asia’s two largest economies.

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