Hong Kong puts runaway activist Tony Chung on wanted list

4 Min
Hong Kong puts runaway activist Tony Chung on wanted list

Authorities in Hong Kong on Friday issued a “recall” order for prominent independence activist Tony Chung, who recently arrived in the United Kingdom to seek political asylum, as police questioned the parents of activist Agnes Chow, who skipped bail and fled to Canada.

Chung, now 22 and one of the youngest democracy activists to be jailed under a draconian national security law, announced on Facebook and Instagram that he had applied for political asylum in the United Kingdom, where he arrived earlier this week.

Hong Kong’s Correctional Service Department issued a recall order for Chung and said they would work with other law enforcement agencies to put him on a growing list of wanted prominent activists in exile, amid growing international concerns about China’s “long-arm” law enforcement activities.

Chung, who was jailed in 2021 on charges of “secession” when he was just 19, said he remained under close police surveillance following his release at the end of his prison sentence in June, as part of a one-year supervision order.

Chung said he was ordered by Hong Kong authorities to give up his job and banned from talking to the media or publishing online posts, before being repeatedly pressured by police to inform on other pro-democracy activists for money, according to his statement on Facebook.

“The national security police officers kept on coercing and inducing me to join them,” Chung wrote. “My speculation is that they learned about my financial struggles through my bank account information, so they proposed providing informant fees, urging me to supply information about others as proof of my reformation and willingness to cooperate.”

Chung, who pleaded guilty to the charges against him, eventually managed to leave Hong Kong by gaining approval from Correctional Services to travel to Japan as a tourist.

Once there, he “hurriedly purchased a flight ticket to the UK before the deadline for returning to Hong Kong, and arrived in the UK on the evening of Dec. 27 (UK time),” he said, adding that he is unlikely to be able to return for the foreseeable future.

Financial struggles

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Chung said national security police would seek him out for a meeting every two to four weeks, picking him up in an SUV with drawn curtains and driving him to an unknown location for interrogation about his recent activities.

“They wanted me to confess, and prove to them that I had nothing to hide, and that I wasn’t engaging in any further secessionist activities,” Chung said.

Each time, the police also tried to hire him as an informant, and pay him fees ranging from HK$500 to $3,000 (about US$65 to $385) for information on other activists.

“The national security police claimed that they knew that my financial situation was fairly dire, and that I needed money, so they offered to give me financial assistance with informant fees, hoping that I would provide some intelligence and information they needed,” Chung said.

His escape came more than three years after an abortive bid for political asylum at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Chung said.

“Back then, someone claiming to be from a U.K. group said they could get me into the U.S. Consulate to seek asylum,” he said. “The Chinese name of the group was Tuesdayroad, and the guy claimed his name was Tony Choi.”

“But when I took a taxi to the opposite side of the road from the U.S. Consulate that day, I saw two men who seemed to be national security police watching me, from the moment I got out of the taxi,” Chung said.

The officers approached Chung, read out his full name, and ordered him to stop. Chung tried to duck into a nearby coffee shop, but they caught up with him there, he said.

Chung, who was receiving treatment for mental health problems at the time, knew his asylum bid was a long shot, but felt he had to try.

“It was the least I could do for Hong Kong, and it was the only thing I could do at that time,” he said.

Failed bid

Fellow wanted Hong Kong activist and host of the Tuesdayroad YouTube channel Johnny Fok confirmed the incident when contacted by RFA Cantonese.

“A host from our channel assisted Tony Chung in a bid to enter the U.S. Consulate in 2020, but it was unsuccessful,” Fok said in a written response.

“He was arrested and taken away by unidentified people. The last person to communicate with him at that time was Tony [Choi], a host at this channel.”

The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau did not respond to a request for comment.

Fok and Choi were both placed on a wanted list earlier this month for “incitement to secession” and “incitement to subvert state power” under the National Security Law, based on videos they made between July 2020 and August 2023.

Chung’s account of being pressured to inform on other activists is similar to that of fellow democracy activist Agnes Chow, who recently skipped bail and fled to Canada after taking a “study tour” to mainland China in order to get her passport back from police.

Police on Thursday hit out at Chow for failing to report to a police station as part of her bail conditions, vowing to pursue her for the rest of her life. It’s a threat they have made to many other overseas activists on the wanted list.

Police also hauled Chow’s parents in for questioning on Friday.

The Hong Kong Standard cited sources as saying that Chow’s parents were “invited to Tai Po Police Station to aid in the investigation,” on Friday.

“It is understood that Chow’s mother was the guarantor when applying to release her daughter on bail,” reported the paper, which is owned by the pro-China Sing Tao News Corp.

  • RFA report, Dec 29, 2023