Hong Kong's 'Grandma Wong' arrested for solo Tiananmen protest

Alexandra Wong, an activist known as Grandma Wong, holds a British Union Jack flag outside the District Court in Hong Kong on May 28, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong police have arrested an elderly democracy activist as she made a solo demonstration over China's deadly Tiananmen crackdown in a vivid illustration of the zero protest tolerance now wielded by the authorities in the financial hub.

Madam Alexandra Wong, 65, was detained on Sunday (May 30) on suspicion of taking part in an unlawful assembly as she walked towards Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

Madam Wong - known locally as "Grandma Wong" - was a regular fixture of the huge democracy protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019.

She could often be seen waving a Union Jack flag, a symbol of her dissatisfaction with Beijing's rule since the city was handed to China by former colonial power Britain in 1997. Protest is now all but outlawed in Hong Kong.

The authorities have used both the threat of the coronavirus and security concerns to ban demonstrations.

A vigil planned for this Friday - the 32nd anniversary of Beijing's 1989 crackdown on democracy protests in Tiananmen Square - has been denied permission for the second year in a row.

The authorities have cited the coronavirus, although Hong Kong is currently celebrating no local transmission of cases of unknown origin for the past month.

Activists had also sought permission for a small Tiananmen-themed march on Sunday to the Liaison Office, which represents the central government in the city, but that request was also denied.

Madam Wong turned up anyway that afternoon, holding as sign that read "32, June 4, Tiananmen's lament" and a yellow umbrella, which is a symbol of Hong Kong's democracy movement.

The South China Morning Post said that the pensioner started chanting slogans in a park before heading towards the Liaison Office by herself, while being followed and filmed by the police. She was stopped twice.

"I'm only by myself, just an old lady here. Why stop me?" the Post quoted Madam Wong as telling officers. Soon afterwards, she was arrested.

The police confirmed that a 65-year-old woman surnamed Wong had been arrested for "knowingly participating in an unauthorised assembly and attempting to incite others to join an unauthorised assembly".

Hong Kong's democracy movement has been crushed by a broad crackdown on dissent over the last year, including the imposition of a sweeping security law that criminalises much dissent.

In the middle of the 2019 protests, Madam Wong disappeared for more than a year.

She resurfaced saying she had been detained by the mainland authorities during a trip to Shenzhen, a neighbouring city where she lived at the time.

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