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Up to a Million People Fleeing Hong Kong Might Suit China Just Fine

Many are looking for an exit, and the exodus could be for good this time.

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Albert Ho shuffles across the dining room of Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club in a suit jacket and black scarf and slumps into his seat. The 69-year-old lawyer, democracy campaigner, and opposition politician has just come from visiting two friends in prison.

One of them is Jimmy Lai, the media tycoon and prodemocracy activist whose Apple Daily newspaper cheered the city’s protest movement before Beijing quelled the unrest with a draconian national security law that it wielded to charge him with “foreign collusion.” Lai has been denied bail while awaiting trial. Another was the politician Wu Chi-wai, the former leader of the city’s main opposition Democratic Party and one of 55 activists and ex-lawmakers arrested in early January. John Clancey, an American lawyer at Ho’s firm, was also taken into custody that day, the first foreigner snared by the sweeping new security law, whose vaguely defined crimes include subversion and secession. “I have so many friends who are now in jail,” Ho says over lunch. “I’ll probably be next.” He could well be right: Ho once chaired the Democratic Party, and his law firm has defended hundreds of protesters. Chinese state media have dubbed him a member of a new “Gang of Four” responsible for the city’s unrest.