Chow is often dubbed the “Goddess of Democracy” in Japanese media — but has said in an interview she does not like the nickname.
The epithet has also drawn the ire of online commenters who say it reflects a Japanese media habit of describing female figures in specifically feminine — and, they say, objectifying — ways.
For all her popularity, it is unclear if Chow has had much influence on Japanese government policy.
Chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga has made no specific comment on her arrest, though the government has expressed more general concern over the application of the national security law, which outlaws subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion in the semi-autonomous city.
Japan had been in the process of rehabilitating ties with Beijing, with Chinese President Xi Jinping previously scheduled to make a state visit this year to cement the warming relations.
But the visit has been delayed, seemingly indefinitely, and while the government has blamed the coronavirus pandemic for the decision, there has been growing discomfort among some Japanese lawmakers about the country’s relationship with Beijing.