Catholic pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow has been transferred to a top-security prison after she was sentenced to seven months imprisonment to charges relating to “illegal assembly” last month, a Hong Kong media has reported.
The activist was taken to the medium-security Lo Wu Correctional Institution near the border with mainland China after sentencing on Dec. 2. But sources told the Apple Daily newspaper that Chow has since been transferred to the Tai Lam Women’s Correctional Institution, a category ‘A’ facility.
A category A facility puts prisoners convicted of violent crime in solitary confinement, according to the news report.
Chow, 24, pleaded guilty to charges relating to “illegal assembly” linked to protests outside the Hong Kong’s police headquarters on June 21, 2019.
A report by Radio Free Asia quoted Shiu Ka-chun, who served an eight-month jail term in connection with the 2014 Occupy Central campaign for universal suffrage, saying that the move was highly unusual.
“To give you some idea, category A prisoners aren’t even allowed out to attend the funeral of a family member,” he said.
Category A prisoners are often people who have been convicted of murder or drug trafficking, said Shiu.
Former student leader Joshua Wong, who co-founded the now-disbanded political party Demosisto with Chow, is also believed to have been placed in category A, said the Apple Daily report.
The government’s prison service has given no explanation for Chow’s detention situation.
The Apple Daily report said the Correctional Services Department declined to comment on individual cases, saying only that crimes committed, length of sentence and the extent to which someone was a security risk are all into account.
Chow was denied bail last month pending an appeal against her jail sentence.
She was only 15 years old when she saw photos on Facebook of students her age protesting the Chinese government’s plan to overhaul education in Hong Kong.
She later joined sit-in demonstrations outside government offices and in 2016 founded the political party Demosisto with two other activists: Nathan Law and Joshua Wong.
At 21, Chow ran for office and won an election in 2018 by campaigning for Hong Kong’s self-determination.
She was, however, barred from sitting in office after the government decided that self-determination contradicts Hong Kong’s agreement with China for “one country, two systems.”
In a 2019 interview with Religion Unplugged, Chow said faith inspired people to join the pro-democracy movement.
“I’m a Catholic. I do think that my participation in social movements is affected by my religion,” she said, adding that her father always brought her to church when she was young.
“We need to learn, we have to care, about the people who are being oppressed and people who are weak and need help,” said Chow.
The 24-year old activist was jailed on Dec. 2 along with Wong for their roles in the 2019 rally.
Chow, along with Wong and Law, founded the now-disbanded democracy group Demosisto in 2016.
The party was dissolved hours after Beijing passed a new national security law for the city on June 30 amid fears it could be targeted under the legislation.
Chow was also arrested in August under the security legislation on suspicion of “colluding with foreign forces,” but is yet to face any charges.
Under the law, Beijing punishes what it broadly defines as sedition, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.