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Where Are Hong Kong’s Leading Pro-Democracy Figures Now?

In 2019, Hong Kong erupted into the most stunning expression of public anger with Beijing in decades. Protesters broke into the legislature and vandalized it. They bought full-page advertisements in international newspapers, criticizing the government. Lawmakers hurled unsavory objects in meetings to protest unpopular bills.

In the years since then, China has waged an expansive crackdown on Hong Kong to crush the opposition. Beijing directly imposed a national security law on the city in 2020 that gave the authorities a powerful tool to round up critics, including a prominent pro-democracy media tycoon.

So when Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing lawmakers passed a new security law on Tuesday that expanded the authorities’ power even more, the vote was virtually unopposed. The most vocal pro-democracy activists and lawmakers are now either in prison or self-imposed exile.

Chow Hang Tung, lawyer, in jail

Chow Hang Tung in 2021.Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

Chow Hang Tung was a human rights lawyer representing other activists on trial for national security offenses, until she herself was arrested in 2021.

Now, she says, she had no other option but to “become a columnist,” writing open letters from jail, which are then posted online by her friends. She has also filed several legal appeals, writing statements to the court by hand because she had no access to a computer or the internet.

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