Heckler accosts Blair at HKU talk

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2012, 12:00am

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Tony Blair was in Hong Kong yesterday to answer questions on the impact of faith and globalisation, but instead he was nearly the victim of a citizen's arrest for war crimes.

The former British prime minister was giving a lecture at the University of Hong Kong to inaugurate a partnership between the Tony Blair Faith Foundation's global network of leading universities and HKU's Faith and Global Engagement Initiative.

However, he had only just taken to the stage when a Hong Kong-based British activist, Tom Grundy, approached him from the packed auditorium and shouted: 'Mr Blair, I'm conducting a citizen's arrest for crimes against peace under the Hong Kong power 101 law.' The number refers to a section of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance.

Grundy got to within a few feet of the podium before Blair's two personal bodyguards intervened, but Grundy stood his ground and continued to berate him.

Shocked, Blair soon regained his composure, telling Grundy he had made his point and should leave.

'That's democracy for you,' Blair said. Then, addressing the stunned audience he said he was 'used to all this by now'. Grundy retorted: 'You should be, you're a war criminal.'

Grundy eventually left of his own accord and did not encounter any security or police upon his exit.

It is the second time in a matter of weeks that Blair has encountered such behaviour. Last month's incident came when he was at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics, where he had to explain his friendship with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. The inquiry was set up by British Prime Minister David Cameron after the now-defunct Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid admitted intercepting voicemail messages of prominent people. During Blair's evidence, a protester was ejected after calling him a 'war criminal'.

A spokeswoman for HKU said all appropriate security arrangements had been taken and that Blair's office did not have specific requirements. 'We only were asked to deploy basic security measures like having people's bags checked before they entered the auditorium,' she said. She confirmed Grundy had got in by registering as a freelance writer.

'We were asked just to register local media. But we cannot check every freelance writer's authenticity,' she said. The spokeswoman also said the man was not arrested as he was 'expressing his own views without doing anything that was aggressive'.

The rest of Blair's lecture went without a hitch. He recalled how Hong Kong held fond memories for him. He came on his honeymoon here and his brother married a Hong Kong woman, now a leading light of the Chinese community in London.

'I'll also never forget that dripping wet day in 1997 [during the handover ceremony] where I was glad I wasn't wearing the same see-through suit as Prince Charles,' he quipped.

His Faith Foundation seeks to promote understanding between the major religions.