Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, 23, is now the face of defiance for a city with deteriorating rule of law.

Police on Monday detained Chow, along with Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, his son, and seven other activists, under the new national security law. A #FreeAgnes Twitter campaign started trending after the arrests, and Japan’s local media referred to Chow as the “goddess of democracy.” Some netizens also called her "the daughter of Hong Kong."

Chow was accused of “inciting secession,” punishable by a minimum sentence of three years and maximum of life in prison.

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While the Apple Daily raid and Lai’s arrest made international headlines, Chow’s arrest took the media spotlight in Japan. Chow rose to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement at the age of 17. But she had, at 15, started participating in the protests against the government’s plan to impose Chinese national education on Hong Kong’s public school curriculum.

Chow renounced her British citizenship in 2018 to run for office, but her candidacy was revoked because her party, Demosisto, had called for Hong Kong’s self-determination. During the pro-democracy protests last year, she had pleaded guilty to charges of illegal assembly and she was banned from leaving the city.

Fluent in Japanese, Chow has built a massive social media following in Japan. In June, along with other Hong Kong activists, Chow urged Tokyo to rethink inviting Chinese President Xi Jiping to visit Japan.

In response to the latest police crackdown, Tokyo has maintained its “well-worn diplomatic language” without addressing the arrests, according to Japan Times. But the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Akihisa Nagashima said on Twitter that he would hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday with the Japan arm of the International Parliamentarian Alliance on China.

Last year, Chow spoke of the despair that was permeating the city in an exclusive interview with the Nikkei Asian Review. She said, “The most important thing is, at this moment, we’re still fighting.”

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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