HONG KONG—Railings festooned with tear gas canisters and colorful postcards are artworks that protesters in Hong Kong have made from materials left over from recent demonstrations, hoping to spread their message in the Chinese-controlled territory.
Part promotion, part politics and often laced with undertones of satire, different art forms have flourished across the Asian financial hub as the escalating anti-government protests of the past 10 weeks lead to yet more violent clashes.
A protest movement that began as opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill has evolved into a direct challenge to the city’s government and calls for full democracy.
Simple banners and online notices seen when the protests began in June have morphed into a sophisticated and creative marketing blitz of posters, anime videos and art installations.
“If we have to get everyone involved, we have to promote it,” said Cecilia Yau, a university student studying in Melbourne, who spends her free time designing posters and infographics for the movement.
“The message is of utmost importance,” she said, explaining that the posters had to cater to different readers, for example employing large fonts and a simple design to target elderly pro-Beijing residents.
Yau typically distributes posters online for teams of more than a thousand people in some cases, to print and post on social media. There was no overall leader, she said.
In the midst of clashes between black-clad, mostly young activists and riot police, or, at times, suspected gang members who support the government, an organization called Imagine Hong Kong has created a pop-up exhibition.
“Stand with Hong Kong,” located in the city’s Sheung Wan district, a flashpoint for previous protests, aims to give viewers the space to reflect on the situation, using newspaper clippings and images tracking the evolution of the protests.
“Our purpose is to encourage reflection on the protests and also to provide a space for emotional refuge and emotional release,” said a representative, who declined to give her name, adding that anonymous participants were behind the group.
Artwork has popped up everywhere from outlying island ferry piers to the city’s international airport.
The color yellow is often featured, depicting a yellow hard hat or umbrella, a nod to the 2014 protests that some refer to as the umbrella revolution, but posters increasingly take inspiration from pop culture and global issues.
One poster for a rally this weekend in the working-class district of Sham Shui Po shows a pair of hands holding a light saber, mimicking the Star Wars episode, the Return of the Jedi.
Another shows a giant sinking iceberg, its surface labeled ‘protests, rallies, uncooperative movement and strikes’, while submerged under water are successive layers tagged ‘Electoral fraud’, ‘Tyrannical rule’ and ‘Police-triad collusion.’
Hundreds gathered outside the city’s dome-shaped space museum this week to create a laser show.
It was a response to what they called the unlawful arrest of a university student who bought laser pointers but was accused by authorities of possession of offensive weapons.
Police said lasers could start fires and several officers had suffered eye injuries. Protesters responded by shining neon green, blue and red lights at the dome, in a bid to demonstrate it would not catch fire.
“Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” they chanted.
To help perpetuate the movement and turn spontaneous acts of disobedience into a “potent force of change,” Imagine Hong Kong said it would create an archive of visual material to show the city’s people they share a collective identity.
“Behind a newspaper, a poster and a text are anonymous, ordinary people who love Hong Kong,” it said. “With varying sight lines each of us writes our history of protest; for if this fight is lost, so is our home.”
By Farah Master