A young Hong Kong activist denounces the influence of the

A young Hong Kong activist denounces the influence of the police

A few days before Christmas, Tony Chung, a young Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, boarded a flight to Okinawa, Japan, carrying only a backpack to avoid arousing suspicion about his plan to seek political asylum. United Kingdom.

The 22-year-old was one of the youngest activists to be detained in Hong Kong under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing.

After his release six months ago, he was closely monitored, particularly by police who urged him to become an informant.

“Not only did they completely control my life and intervene in my life, but their actions also compromised my personal safety and put my life in danger,” the young man told AFP in an interview from Britain on Friday.

With 40,000 Hong Kong dollars ($6,772) in his pocket, he left Hong Kong last week, promising authorities he would return after a short vacation. When he arrived in Okinawa, he bought a ticket to London.

Tony Chung joins the growing number of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who have sought refuge abroad despite threats from Hong Kong and Beijing authorities.

In a Facebook post, he recounted his journey after arriving in London on Wednesday – which made him a fugitive in the eyes of Hong Kong authorities.

Independence activist

On Friday, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London called on Britain to “bring him to justice as soon as possible and send him back to Hong Kong.”

The young man is sure that London will resist the Chinese authorities' attempt to portray him as a criminal. “I think the British government will not agree with how the Chinese government has implemented the national security law in Hong Kong to oppress the people of Hong Kong.”

While still in high school, Tony Chung founded the Student Localism Association in 2016, which called for Hong Kong's independence.

The separation of Hong Kong from China, a red line for Beijing, was then a minority position in the former British colony.

His club was dissolved in 2020 after a national security law came into effect in response to the massive democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019.

Tony Chung was arrested in July 2020 for “secession” under this law and was later released on bail.

Three months later, he was arrested again outside the American consulate in Hong Kong, where he said he had tried to apply for political asylum.

“No choice”

He later pleaded guilty to secession and money laundering in connection with donations to his club and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

In prison, he witnessed the beginnings of a “de-radicalization program” based on screenings of patriotic films, conferences on Chinese history, and cultural shows.

Prison officials “told us out of self-pity that we had been exploited and bought by the Americans to disrupt China's development,” Tony Chung said.

He was granted early release in June after agreeing to strict restrictions on his freedom of expression, movement and employment.

But the demands of Hong Kong's National Security Police, which offered him between 500 and 3,000 Hong Kong dollars ($84 to $500) for information about his surroundings, caused stress.

“They never gave me a choice, they just said it was to be expected,” he said.

“All I could do was accept and let them think that I fit their idea of ​​rehabilitation.”

“Very immediate threat”

Hong Kong police said in an interview with AFP that they were “effectively collecting intelligence.” […] through various channels, means and individuals.

For Tony Chung, the decision to leave came when police offered to take him on a trip to mainland China.

“I couldn’t speculate about their destination. What I can say is that I felt a very immediate threat,” he said.

The police abandoned the idea when he objected, but Tony Chung felt it would be difficult for him to refuse in the future.

His flight to the UK seemed “unreal” until he landed.

Tony Chung says he wants to “continue to make his contribution” to Hong Kong, without giving details of his projects.

“I have thought long and hard about the prospect of being detained or forced to leave Hong Kong.”

“But since I have really taken the path that could separate me from Hong Kong forever […]I hope to be able to come back one day.