As Hong Kongers gathered outside the British consulate Monday night to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, a man was arrested for allegedly seditious harmonica playing. The man played songs including the British national anthem and the unofficial protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong to the crowd as the monarch's state funeral was taking place, AFP reports. Hong Kong is a former British colony, and mourning the queen has been seen as a way of expressing dissent at a time when public gatherings are outlawed and a harsh national security law imposed by Beijing has crushed most criticism of the government.
As the man played, people gathered outside the consulate cheered and displayed their phone lights. Some shouted pro-democracy slogans. The 43-year-old harmonica player was charged under a colonial-era sedition law that was unused for decades before the national security law was introduced in 2020 following massive pro-democracy protests, the Hong Kong Free Press reports. Earlier this month, the same law was used to convict five speech therapists who had published children's books seen as critical of Beijing's influence on the territory.
Over several days, people waited in line for hours to sign a book of condolences at the British consulate. It had been signed by around 13,000 people by the time it was closed Monday night. Hundreds also left flowers, candles, drawings, and greeting cards on the walls outside the consulate, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some of the cards referred to the crackdown on dissent and mentioned the greater freedoms Hong Kongers had enjoyed under British rule. (Read more Hong Kong stories.)