Protest granny ‘ready to die’ for Hong Kong’s freedoms

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Protest granny ‘ready to die’ for Hong Kong’s freedoms

On Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, police had been deployed throughout the town to snuff out anti-government protests that had been rumoured to happen. However regardless of the heavy safety presence that nullified any widespread rallies, one girl demonstrated alone: 64-year-old Alexandra Wong.

“Grandma Wong”, as youthful activists affectionately known as her, was an everyday sight throughout final yr’s protests, the place ought to would unfurl an enormous union jack at rallies. For Ms Wong, the flag — which is despised by the Chinese language Communist celebration as representing British colonial rule in Hong Kong — was the last word image of defiance.

Authorities ran out of persistence in August 2019 and detained her whereas she was commuting to her house in Shenzhen throughout the border in mainland China. After a 14-month absence, she is again protesting in Hong Kong — as outspoken as ever regardless of a crackdown on dissent within the territory beneath a nationwide safety legislation imposed by Beijing in June.

Though not as well-known overseas as different protesters, similar to Joshua Wong, the coed activist, or the dissident media tycoon Jimmy Lai, Ms Wong’s supporters say that few people higher signify the bravery and resilience of the territory’s pro-democracy motion.

Some even discuss of nominating her for a Nobel Prize. “Grandma Wong is an inspiration to generations of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong,” stated Lord Alton of Liverpool, a member of the group backing the Nobel Prize marketing campaign.

Ms Wong advised the Monetary Occasions in an interview that she feared Beijing was bent on suppressing the excessive diploma of civil, authorized and political freedom promised to the Asian monetary centre on its handover to China from the UK in 1997.

“I’m ready to die,” Ms Wong stated, who’s now residing in a resort in Hong Kong. “They’ll oppress us if we don’t protest and we are going to lose extra freedoms.”

A diminutive determine with a mop of gray hair, the retired accountant grew to become a full-time protester in the course of the territory’s first massive pro-democracy protests, the 2014 Umbrella Motion, when demonstrators occupied central Hong Kong to demand common suffrage. 

When new protests erupted final yr, this time over a proposed extradition legislation to mainland China, Ms Wong grew to become an everyday fixture, usually getting caught up within the battles between protesters and police. Her signature union jack was meant to specific her because of the previous British colonial authorities for establishing rule of legislation within the territory and a advantageous training system.

However the flag additionally attracted the eye of Chinese language authorities. After her arrest in mainland China, she was held for 45 days and interrogated over her involvement within the protests and her activist contacts.

Ms Wong recollects sleepless nights in a cell mendacity on a single platform with 16 ladies shoulder-to-shoulder beneath shiny lights. The circumstances tipped her right into a deep melancholy. “I needed to kill myself,” she stated.

Then adopted a patriotic “re-education” journey to the north-western Chinese language province of Shaanxi, the place she was compelled to sing Communist celebration songs and wave a Chinese language flag. Ms Wong was finally launched on bail after being charged with “choosing quarrels and frightening hassle”.

She was permitted to return to Hong Kong in October and, regardless of official warnings from mainland authorities, resumed protesting. Shenzhen’s Public Safety Bureau didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The authorities argue the crackdown in Hong Kong is important to guard nationwide safety and curb final yr’s protest motion, which began out peacefully however grew into citywide clashes between police and protesters.

Other than arresting activists, the Hong Kong authorities is purging the legislature, civil service and faculties of dissent. The nationwide safety legislation carries penalties of as much as life imprisonment for crimes similar to subversion, collusion with overseas forces and terrorism.

Ms Wong can be beneath strain. Professional-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po has known as her the “loopy colonial lover”.

Since her return to the town, Ms Wong has been charged with assault for allegedly pushing a feminine safety guard at a Hong Kong courtroom final yr.

Single and with no kids of her personal, Ms Wong stated she considered Hong Kong’s younger protesters as her grandchildren and urged them to flee to the UK or Canada and proceed demonstrating. 

“The extra individuals who get away, the higher,” she stated. 

Since returning to Hong Kong, Ms Wong has attended courtroom hearings to help younger demonstrators and mounted one-person protests outdoors the town’s legislature and the workplace of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief government.

She admitted to being fearful in regards to the new nationwide safety legislation however stated she felt safer in Hong Kong, the place the media may nonetheless report on her whereabouts. 

“I don’t need to depart Hong Kong. Hong Kong wants me,” she stated.

Ms Wong has changed her trademark union jack, which was confiscated by mainland Chinese language authorities, with a tote bag emblazoned with an enormous model of the British flag. She makes use of it to hold her protest paraphernalia.