Hong Kong activist Owen Chow, who was one of more than 50 democrats arrested for alleged subversion under the national security law last month, may face an additional charge of rioting related to the storming of the Legislative Council (LegCo) chamber in July 2019.

According to Chow on Facebook, police arrested him for rioting when he reported to a station on Wednesday to extend his bail on the subversion charge. The 24-year-old was among 55 democrats rounded up on January 6 under the Beijing-imposed security law.

A total of 52 of them including Chow had their bail extended until April 8 and none have yet been charged under the security law. Three remain in custody in connection with other cases.

Owen Chow
Owen Chow outside Tsing Yi Police station on February 10, 2021. Photo: Owen Chow, via Facebook.

Chow said officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau alleged he was linked to the breaking in at LegCo on July 1, 2019 and to acts of vandalism inside the building. He told local media that police had obtained his fingerprints during last month’s arrest, which allegedly matched some of those taken in LegCo.

Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters stormed the city’s legislature by smashing glass doors during the early days of the anti-extradition bill protests. As police withdrew, they vandalised the building by scrawling slogans on the walls with spray paint, while others defaced the HKSAR emblem and tore up a copy of the Basic Law.

Chow was released on bail of HK$10,000 without being charged and must report to police again on the rioting case on March 24. He said it was “very unforgettable” to be arrested for rioting on his birthday, and thanked friends and supporters who brought a cake when they picked him up from the police station.

July 1 2019 Monday democracy march
Protesters smash the glass doors of the Legislative Council Complex on July 1, 2019. Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

“Suppression by the totalitarian regime will only become more and more severe… but this totalitarian power can never arrest all people who strive for democracy and freedom,” Chow wrote on Facebook following his release.

He added: “Wish we all can make it through this era of white terror safely.”

The pro-democracy figures arrested last month in a mass raid which sparked widespread overseas criticism are alleged to have committed subversion by organising or taking part in an unofficial primary election for pro-democracy candidates before the now-postponed 2020 Legislative Council election.

arrested democrats Jan 6
Some of the democrats arrested for “subversion” on January 6, 2021. From L to R: Wu Chi-Wai, Lester Shum, Gwyneth Ho, Alvin Yeung, James To, Kwok Ka-ki, Lam Cheuk-ting, Eddie Chu, Ventus Lau, Benny Tai, Raymond Chan, Leung Kwok-hung.

Police said the aim of the organisers was to use strategic voting to win a legislative majority, force the chief executive to resign by vetoing budget bills and eventually push the government into a shutdown.

The mass arrests marked the largest national security round-up since the law came into force on June 30, 2020. The sweeping legislation criminalises secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.