Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Anna Lo's son may face charges over the Tibet protest

Olympic torch ignites anti-Beijing protests

The son of an Assembly member is facing potential charges after being arrested in London as part of protests over China's human rights abuses in Tibet.

Former UK student of the year Conall Hon Watson helped preparations for the protest after abseiling down Westminster Bridge and hanging a huge 'Free Tibet' banner.

Back in Belfast, his mother, Alliance party MLA Anna Lo, worried her eldest son was going to spend his 26th birthday in a Charing Cross prison cell.

The South Belfast MLA was addressing a Samaritans conference in Londonderry on Saturday afternoon when the call that Conall had been arrested came - and switched her mobile off.

But later, watching the dramatic television pictures of the protest banner being unfurled, she recognised her son from his trousers and trainers.

"I was glad he was wearing a helmet," Ms Lo said today, admitting she was concerned for his safety, "but he is a very sensible and intelligent person.

"I am extremely proud of him, he is a very empathetic young man, but its important that people understand both he and I have nothing against the Chinese people but against the Chinese government."

Ms Lo's younger son, Owen, 23 today, also took part with Conall in yesterday's demonstration which saw a further 37 arrests during clashes between police and protesters as the Olympic flame was being brought through the capital.

And the senior Alliance party member admitted she also participated with her offspring in a similar protest march last month, and afterwards wrote to both Gordon Brown and the Chinese ambassador, Madame Fu Ying, urging contact with the Dalai Lama, who visits the United Kingdom next month.

"I think we now have a window of opportunity if protests like yesterday - of course the Chinese people themselves will not be allowed to see them, but they will be seen in Chinese embassies across the world - can keep the pressure on.

"Having previously said he would not meet the Dalai Lama, Mr Brown has now confirmed he will do so and I hope I played a small part in persuading him," she added.

Since Saturday Ms Lo has spoken several times to Conall, who joined the Free Tibet student movement as an undergraduate in Nottingham and was named 2004 student of the year for his work with students unions.

"I was concerned he was going to spend his 26th birthday yesterday in a prison cell but I had no worries about how he would be treated by the police, " the MLA added.

He has, however, to adhere to bail conditions not to enter the precincts of Westminster.

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