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Hong Kong protester 'Grandma Wong' reappears after 14 months stuck in China

Oct 18, 2020
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Alexandra Wong at the press conference - PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images
Alexandra Wong at the press conference – PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images

A Hong Kong protester nicknamed “Grandma Wong” who disappeared more than a year ago has resurfaced in the city, saying Chinese authorities had detained her on the mainland and prevented her return. 

Alexandra Wong, 64, had been a familiar face at anti-government protests that erupted last year, and was often seen waving a large British flag. The Hongkonger lived in Shenzhen, a city in mainland China, but travelled frequently across the border to protest until her disappearance in August last year.   

Having had minimal public contact since then, she finally re-emerged at a press conference on Saturday, saying that she had been detained by Chinese police at the border as she was returning home on Aug. 14, 2019. 

Ms Wong claimed she was detained for 45 days, forced to renounce her activism in writing and record a video statement declaring that she had not been tortured. She was then sent on a “patriotic tour” of China’s north.  

Thousands gather for a protest in Hong Kong - REUTERS/Thomas PeterThousands gather for a protest in Hong Kong - REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Thousands gather for a protest in Hong Kong – REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Despite the ordeal, Ms Wong said she “won’t give up fighting” and that there would be no change without sacrifice.

Her account demonstrates the concerns that many Hongkongers have about the justice system in mainland China spilling over into their city.

Ms Wong told reporters she had been held by Shenzhen authorities without knowing what charges she was facing and that she was interrogated almost every day about the Hong Kong protests.

Following a month and a half in detention, she was sent on a five-day tour of Shaanxi province, where she had to sing the Chinese national anthem and have her picture taken holding the Chinese flag, she said.

Ms Wong holds a sign at the press conference calling for the release of 12 activists detained while trying to flee the city - Peter PARKS / AFPMs Wong holds a sign at the press conference calling for the release of 12 activists detained while trying to flee the city - Peter PARKS / AFP
Ms Wong holds a sign at the press conference calling for the release of 12 activists detained while trying to flee the city – Peter PARKS / AFP

Ms Wong was then given police bail on condition she stayed in Shenzhen, she said, but those conditions ended in late September. She returned to Hong Kong earlier this month, and observed a 14-day quarantine before giving Saturday’s press conference. 

The months-long protests that erupted last year were originally against a proposed extradition bill that would allow for Hongkongers to be sent to mainland China for trial. The bill was shelved, but in June Beijing imposed a harsh national security law on Hong Kong that gives it broad powers to intervene in Hong Kong’s legal system, and makes it easier to punish protesters. 

Ms Wong also called for the release of 12 activists who were seized by the Chinese coastguard in August allegedly trying to flee to Taiwan on a speedboat. 

“I’m worried about the 12 young people; their treatment could be worse than [mine],” she said. 

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