A Hong Kong man has been arrested under the colonial-era sedition law while paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II outside the city’s British consulate. He has been detained pending investigation.

Police told HKFP on Tuesday that a 43-year-old man surnamed Pang was arrested on Monday evening for allegedly committing an act or acts with a seditious intention near the British consulate at 1 Supreme Court Road, Admiralty.

An image of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is placed amongst flower tributes as people gather outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong on September 19, 2022, while her funeral was taking place in London. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP.

The arrest took place at around 9.30 p.m., hours after hundreds of Hongkongers waited in line during unseasonably high temperatures for the last opportunity to sign a book of condolences for Britain’s longest serving monarch. Dozens of police officers were deployed to monitor the situation.

See also: Hongkongers mourn the death of Britain’s Queen and a bygone era

The British consulate closed the book of condolences as the Queen was laid to rest at Windsor Castle in Britain on Monday following a state funeral attended by world leaders.

Local media reported that a man played a harmonica on the pavement opposite the consulate building in Admiralty, where some people had gathered to watch the livestream of the Queen’s funeral. The songs he played included “Glory to Hong Kong” – the unofficial anthem of the 2019 protests – and the British national anthem, local media footage showed.

“Glory to Hong Kong” is banned in schools, though the government has refused to say if the singing or playing it is illegal.

A video taken by Xinqi Su of Agence France-Presse showed that dozens of people sang a section of the protest song with their phone flashlights illuminated while a harmonica played in the background. The crowd could also be heard chanting slogans, including “Hongkongers, add oil.”

Colonial-era law dusted off

The sedition law, part of the Crimes Ordinance, was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule. The legal text defined seditious intention as having the desire to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against “Her Majesty, or Her Heirs or Successors,” or against the Hong Kong government.

Explainer: Hong Kong’s sedition law – a colonial relic revived after half a century

The use of the legislation remained dormant for decades before it was used to charge pro-democracy activist Tam Tak-chi in September 2020. In a recent sedition case that saw five speech therapists convicted, District Judge Kwok Wai-kin affirmed that any reference to “Her Majesty” in section 9 of the Crimes Ordinance shall be construed as a reference to the Central People’s Government, or other competent authorities of the People’s Republic of China.

Sedition is not covered by the Beijing-imposed national security law, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, and mandates up to life imprisonment. Those convicted under the sedition law face a maximum penalty of two years in prison. 

Police on Tuesday also confirmed that a police officer extinguished candles that had been placed on the railing near the British consulate out of public safety concerns. The officer also reminded people at the scene to pay attention to public safety, the Force said.

“To ensure public safety and public order, police have been in contact with the staff members of the British Consulate General Hong Kong and provide assistance when necessary, to ensure the activities in the public area outside the consulate is held smoothly and safely,” an email reply from the police read.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.