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Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activist Arrested Again

FILE - Chow Hang Tung, vice chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Democratic Patriotic Movements of China, leaves a police station in Hong Kong, June 5, 2021.

A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and human rights lawyer was arrested for the second time in less than a month Wednesday, marking the city's first year under the national security law.

Chow Hang Tung, a vice chair for the nonprofit Hong Kong Alliance, was arrested for inciting illegal assembly, which was scheduled to take place July 1. She was also arrested June 4 for the same charge, according to Richard Tsoi, the group's secretary-general.

Anniversaries in Hong Kong are common this time of year. June 4 marks Beijing's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, while July 1 marks the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China, 24 years ago. July 1 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Chow was initially arrested in early June for allegedly inciting unauthorized assembly to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown. She was released on bail two days later, but according to news reports, police have now revoked her bail.

A police superintendent told the local media that the arrest was "in accordance with the law."

"The 36-year-old local woman surnamed Chow was charged (June 30) with a case of inciting others to knowingly and illegally participate in an unauthorized assembly. The case will appear in West Kowloon Magistracy in the afternoon of July," Hong Kong police told VOA Wednesday via email.

Thousands usually attend an annual candlelight vigil to remember the events of 1989. But participating in unauthorized commemorations in Hong Kong today has severe consequences. Activist Joshua Wong was given 10 additional months in jail in May after pleading guilty to charges that he was involved in a 2020 vigil.

Hours before her arrest, Chow told VOA that she would likely face jail time at some point.

"I'm already under charges for the vigil last year. I think, realistically, we'll probably be in jail by the end of this year. And if we persist in calling for democracy, when that's the logical consequence, you have to expect jail," she said.

In the last two years, authorities in Hong Kong have rejected applications for demonstrations, citing the pandemic. At least three pro-democracy activist groups asked that the ban on Thursday's protest be overturned, but their appeals were rejected.

Hong Kong police have warned demonstrators against showing up Thursday and are deploying up to 10,000 officers for the day, according to local news reports.

Security law anniversary

In addition to Chow's arrest, the city's national security law came into effect one year ago on June 30, leaving a trail of controversy. The legislation was enacted after Beijing sought to bring back stability to Hong Kong following widespread anti-government protests in 2019 that often turned violent.

FILE - Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, who founded local newspaper Apple Daily, is arrested under the new national security law by police officers at his home, Aug. 10, 2020.
FILE - Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, who founded local newspaper Apple Daily, is arrested under the new national security law by police officers at his home, Aug. 10, 2020.

The law prohibits secession, subversion and foreign collusion. Since its enactment, it has been the catalyst for a political crackdown in the city. Dozens of activists have been charged under the law, including Jimmy Lai, the billionaire tycoon and founder of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. The newspaper was forced to close last week after authorities arrested several executives and froze the company's financial assets.

Next Digital, Apple Daily's parent company, is set to close July 1.

In an interview Wednesday with VOA, Chow, who anticipates more arrests and crackdowns, spoke candidly about her constant push for change in Hong Kong.

"I believe that we should not dissolve or disarm ourselves just because of the political pressure," she said.