A prominent Hong Kong protester has made her first public appearance in 14 months and tells the media that she had been held on the Chinese mainland.
Alexandra Wong, 64, was nicknamed “Grandma Wong” and was often depicted with a British flag during protests.
She said she was detained in August in the border town of Shenzhen and forced to renounce her activism in writing.
Ms Wong said she was also sent on a “patriotic tour” in Shaanxi province.
While there, she had to sing the national anthem and was photographed waving the Chinese flag. She was then released on bail, she said, but was banned from returning to Hong Kong.
Last year’s protests against the government began in June 201
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, but was then returned to Chinese control under the principle of “one country, two systems”. While technically part of China, the territory has its own legal system and borders, and rights including freedom of assembly and expression are protected.
At an emotional press conference in Hong Kong on Saturday, Wong said she was initially detained by Shenzhen authorities for a total of 45 days for “administrative detention” and “criminal detention”. However, she was not told what charges she was facing.
“I was afraid I would die in that detention center,” she said.
At the end of the 45 days, she was asked to declare on camera that she had not been tortured, she said, and that she would not protest or conduct interviews with the media.
She was also forced to confess in writing that her activism was wrong – something she described as “the worst thing I did in my life”.
She was then sent to Shaanxi province in northeastern China before being released on bail pending trial for “sudden quarrels and provocation”.
She did not receive any written documentation of these charges.
For a year after her release on bail, she was only allowed to return to Shenzhen, the border town where she lives, and was banned from traveling to Hong Kong.
These conditions expired at the end of last month.
Ms Wong told reporters she had “no courage” to return to Shenzhen “unless there is a radical change in the political situation”.
“I will not give up fighting,” she added. “After all, there will be victims, otherwise … the authoritarian system will not change.”
She also called for the release of 12 Hong Kong activists believed to be fleeing to Taiwan, who were captured at sea by mainland authorities in August.
Hong Kong witnessed a wave of arrests of activists earlier this year under a controversial national security law introduced by China in June.
The security law, opposed by many in Hong Kong, punishes what Beijing generally defines as undermining, secession, terrorism and collaborating with foreign forces with up to life in prison.