A sole activist marked the ninth anniversary of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement on Thursday, calling for the release of “political prisoners.”

Pro-democracy activist Grandma Alexandra Wong umbrella movement government headquarters Admiralty
Pro-democracy activist “Grandma” Alexandra Wong holding a yellow umbrella and placard outside government headquarters on September 28, 2023. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“Grandma” Alexandra Wong stood outside government headquarters in Admiralty at 5.58 pm on Thursday, marking the moment – on September 28, 2014 – when police first fired tear gas at demonstrators around Harcourt Road.

The clash sparked a 79-day street occupation for universal suffrage, after a white paper from Beijing suggested election candidates should be pre-approved.

Harcourt Road Admiralty
Harcourt Road in Admiralty on September 28, 2023. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“Mid-Autumn Festival is the second-biggest festival for the Chinese – everyone wants to spend the festival with their family – I want [the] release of all the political prisoners,” Wong told HKFP on Thursday.

She carried a yellow umbrella, a colour associated with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

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“I think that nobody [will] forget this day,” Wong added, saying that other people may not want to risk arrest by marking the anniversary.

National Day

The 67-year-old activist, who was jailed last year for unlawful assembly, said that police had suggested she remain at home during the upcoming National Day festivities on Sunday.

“I got a polite suggestion… they scared me – something like, ‘I had better stay at home.'”

When approached for comment, a police spokesperson told HKFP on Friday that the Force will act on the basis of the circumstances and law: “Police will make appropriate operational deployment in accordance with the threat to public safety, public order and national security.”

The spokesperson declined to disclose how many officers were set to be deployed on Sunday, but confirmed that they had received no notifications for any public protest or rally to be held.

flower bouquet government headquarters Admiralty umbrella movement
A flower bouquet tied on a tree outside government headquarters on September 28, 2023. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Wong was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong after being arrested in 2019.

HKFP also noted a bunch of white flowers left at the site – in local culture, white flowers represent mourning. The wall nearby was previously the home of the “Lennon Wall” – a colourful wall of pro-democracy post-it note messages.

umbrella occupy movement 2014 democracy
File photo: Simonwai, via Flickr.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.