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Hong Kong police arrest a man who played harmonica at the Queen’s vigil on suspicion of sedition

Hong Kong police arrest a man who played harmonica at the Queen's vigil on suspicion of sedition
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Hong Kong
CNN

In Hong Kong, a man has been arrested on charges of sedition after playing the harmonica at a vigil for Queen Elizabeth II. under a colonial-era law that once outlawed insulting the queen – and has now been revived by authorities amid an ongoing crackdown.

Videos posted on social media show hundreds of people gathering outside the city’s British Consulate on Monday night to pay tribute to the Queen as her funeral took place in London – an event of major political importance in the former British colony, in who has the mourning for the monarch a subtle form of protest.

Many streamed the funeral procession live on their cell phones while others held up candles and laid flowers at a memorial.

A video shows a man playing the tune “Glory to Hong Kong,” a protest anthem that originated in the depths of the United States, on his harmonica Pro-democracy, anti-government protests that shook the city in 2019.

Over 2,500 people lined up outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong on September 12, 2022 to offer their condolences to Queen Elizabeth II.

The rousing ballad, which includes lyrics like “For Hong Kong, may liberty reign,” became an anthem the democracy movement and performances of it have been viewed millions of times on YouTube.

At Tuesday’s vigil, crowds waved iPhone flashlights in the dark and sang along to harmonica, some beginning a chant that has also become synonymous with the protests: “Hong Kong, add oil.”

Photos then show police officers arriving and escorting the man into their van.

When CNN asked police about the harmonica player, they replied that a 43-year-old man, surnamed Pang, was arrested around 9:30 p.m. that night, pending bail investigations, police said.

At the end of November he had to report to the police again.

Hong Kong’s incitement law is part of a 1938 crime ordinance once used by the colonial government to target pro-Chinese groups and publications – particularly after the Chinese Communist Party took power and during anti-government protests in 1967.

It originally defined sedition as statements inciting “hatred or contempt” towards the Queen, her heirs or the Hong Kong government.

The law went unused for decades until it was revived in 2020 — parallel to Beijing’s introduction a comprehensive national security law, aimed at secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist activities.

A conviction under the Incitement of the People Act carries a maximum sentence of two years.

The revival of the law – and its application amid a broader crackdown by Hong Kong and Beijing authorities – has drawn criticism from activists and humanitarian organizations around the world.

In July, the UN Human Rights Committee called on Hong Kong to repeal the hate speech law, saying it feared it could curb citizens’ “legitimate right to freedom of expression.”

The Hong Kong government has repeatedly denied that the Sedition Law or National Security Law – which has been used to arrest activists, journalists, protesters and former elected lawmakers – poses a risk to people’s freedoms.

The Sedition Law “is not intended to silence expressions of opinion that constitute only genuine criticism of the government based on objective facts,” it told the United Nations, adding that the national security law “quickly and effectively promotes stability and security.” restored” following the 2019 protests.

The crackdown has led to a steady erosion of civil liberties in a once free-roaming city with an independent press and rich culture of protest.

Most pro-democracy groups have disbanded, their leaders have been either imprisoned or forced into exile, and mass demonstrations are all but banned.

With no traditional avenues of protest, people have now been arrested for social media posts and even publications Children’s books are considered inflammatory – The Queen’s death emerged this month as an unexpected opportunity for dissenting opinions.

The Hong Kong colonial flag and images of Queen Elizabeth are displayed outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong on September 12.

In the celebration of the monarchy and its symbols, some Hong Kongers see an opportunity to covertly attack both the Chinese Communist Party, which makes no secret that Hong Kongers are forgetting that era, and the local authorities, who recently introduced school textbooks claiming the The city wasn’t even a colony from the start.

A retiree named Wing, who spoke to CNN outside the consulate on Monday but declined to give his full name, said it was “amazing” to be part of a mass gathering again.

“I am angry that the Hong Kong government is not showing (the Queen) proper respect. They’re afraid the Chinese government will reprimand them, but we were part of the colony,” said Wing, who was born in the 1960s.

The displays of affection also commemorate the city’s pro-democracy protests, where protesters adopted the colonial flag as a sign of resistance to Chinese one-party rule.

However, other critics have pointed out that even under British rule, Hong Kongers did not enjoy universal suffrage. And many felt London had neglected its duty by not granting British citizenship to Hong Kongers at the time of the handover, instead offering most a restricted passport that did not give them the right to live and work in Britain.

Since the introduction of the National Security Act, the UK has created what it calls a route to citizenship via a new type of visa.

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