top of page

A sold-out house for She’s in Jail Chow Hang-Tung – the light of Hong Kong – and her continuing battle of resistance

Updated: Apr 30

(Vancouver, Canada) Knowing full well that there would be a price to pay for commemorating “June 4th”, knowing that there is no victory when faced against authority, and because of her belief in the idea and ideal of democracy, she chose never to give up and, in spite of her incarceration, she found ways to continue her resistance. She is the 38-year-old former vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance, Chow Hang-Tung. Since the anti-extradition movement of 2019, under the brutal repression of the Beijing authorities and the Hong Kong government, Chow Hang-Tung, who is serving a jail sentence, has become the symbol of the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who perseveres.

In order to give everyone a deeper understanding and knowledge of Chow Hang-Tung, the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM) hosted a showing of the documentary She’s in Jail at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) Centre, and the visibly moved sold-out audience showed its appreciation with thunderous applause following the film, and everyone present acknowledged Chow Hang-Tung as the light of Hong Kong.

Chow Hang-Tung was only 3-years-old when Beijing carried out its brutal massacre on June 4th, 1989. A barrister by profession, she is also a Hong Konger who cast her vision on China and its democratic movement, assuming the role of vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in 2015. Incarcerated since her arrest in September of 2019, she has been incarcerated, she has since, because of two June 4th- related cases, been sentenced for involvement in unlawful gathering, and is currently serving her sentence. As well, she, along with former Hong Kong Alliance chairperson Lee Cheuk-Yan and others, has been prosecuted for violating Hong Kong’s National Security Law for “incitement to subversion”, a case that still awaiting a court date.

At the outset of the documentary, Chow Hang-Tung expressed the view that since the enactment of the National Security Law in 2020, in order to continue living in Hong Kong, she would have no choice but to resist the current system; many friends have been thinking about how to adapt to this new reality, and that she was “merely doing what she could.” Some felt that the Hong Kong Alliance should disband, an idea that she had always opposed; she felt that her role now is “to never retreat”.

She added that she does not want people to feel that “being jailed is the end”, and that she would continue to express her views, to maintain her visibility, and “not to think that I would disappear because you put me in jail, as it is difficult to make a person completely disappear in today’s world.”

She’s In Jail’s producer, University of Tokyo professor and expert on China, Tomoko Ako, also appears in the documentary. She spoke of her meeting with Chow Hang-Tung, as well as how Chow is continuing to speak out from her jail cell, and has not given up her ideals, and her expressions betrayed how moved she was by Chow’s actions.

In addition, she shared that Chow Hang-Tung is not someone who talks of herself, but rather works behind the scenes to carry out a great many tasks.

Through the words of Chow Hang-Tung’s democracy allies, lawyers, and close friends, the audience got a glimpse of the Chow they know.

Chow Hang-Tung’s comrade-in-arms, former Hong Kong Alliance committee member Lau Ka-Yee said that in Chow’s eyes, her democracy work is her real calling, and that she studied law only because of her conviction of promoting democracy. In her mind, she was completely prepared that “one day one person would end up in jail, or all of us would end up in jail.”

According to a human rights lawyer in China who has known Chow Hang-Tung for ten years, she advised Chow, following her first arrest in 2021, to keep a lower profile, “but her attitude seemed to be that she had thought everything through, and so I stopped trying to convince her otherwise.” She added that Chow had, more than most Hong Kongers, looked to the situation in China, that of a country using the law to infringe upon human rights and freedom, and that many political prisoners had, because of their resistance, lost their lives or ended up being jailed; they all chose to plead not guilty, in order to use this sense of morality to touch or to awaken the people.

Solicitor Kenneth Lam, who in 1989 went to Beijing in support of the protesting students as a representative of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), has rendered assistance to Chow Hang-Tung in certain legal cases. He said that even in jail, Chow has maintained her convictions, and treats everything with a sense of detachment; when discussing with her any aspect of her legal case, one would easily forget that she is serving a jail sentence, “and this requires a great deal of moral courage.” Chow Hang-Tung has thoroughly prepared her own case. In the case of the Hong Kong Alliance refusing to hand over documents, she had prepared her own defense while in jail. Chow read out her defense in court, declaring that the Hong Kong Alliance have been the guardian of the truth about the Tiananmen massacre for over 30 years, and that “we have long been prepared to pay the price”; for the government to demand that Hong Kong Alliance hand over all its documents, is to ask it to “bow and bent in submission, betray friends, and betray its principles.” The Hong Kong Alliance only had a one-word answer: Never.

Not having faced guns and bullets, not having taken any dramatic stance on larger-than-life stages, an ordinary middle-age woman has, with only her conscience and persistence, won the people’s understanding and support, and became the symbol for countless Hong Kongers who have been resisting under the worst possible circumstances. On June 4th, 2023, she and many of her comrade-in-arms, under tremendous pressure from the authorities, were still able to lit candles and sing the democratic anthem “Flower of Freedom” to commemorate June 4th.

Chow Hang-Tung is not just Hong Kong’s Chow Hang-Tung, but belongs to Asia, belongs to the world. Her story is remembered by those in Malaysia fighting for labour rights, and has touched University of Tokyo professor Tomoko Ako. As well, on May 18th of last year, she was awarded South Korea’s Guangju Prize for Human Rights; her close friend Na Hyun-Phil, Chief Executive of the non-profit Korean House for International Solidarity, accepted the prize on her behalf. Last year, she was also the recipient of the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and Rule of Law.

Perhaps the one person who is most able to cheer her on in this road of resistance, would be her boyfriend and comrade-in-arms Ye Du. Under the Chinese communist’s authoritarianism and oppression, this couple, spiritual confidante to one another, are united in their respective jail cells in China and Hong Kong as sentries for freedom.

At the end of the documentary’s showing, the organizers hosted a discussion forum, with VSSDM chairperson Mabel Tung as moderator, and former Hong Kong Alliance committee member Mak Hoi-Wah and University of Tokyo visiting researcher Patrick Poon as guests, speaking of their friendship with Chow Hang-Tung, as well as their concern for the future of Hong Kong.

Before the conclusion of the event, Mabel Tung announced that because of the high demands for tickets, and that many were turned away, there will be an additional showing of the documentary on May 25th.

VSSDM presents one additional showing of She’s in Jail (102 minutes).

Date: May 25th, 2024

Time: 1:00 p.m.

Venue: Vancouver International Film Festival Centre, 1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver


bottom of page