Pro-China Groups to Tear Down Pro-democracy Graffiti in Hong Kong

By Reuters
September 20, 2019 Updated: September 20, 2019

HONG KONG—A pro-Beijing lawmaker has called for a Clean Hong Kong Day on Sept. 21, urging supporters to pull down “Lennon Walls” of anti-government graffiti across the Chinese-ruled city, a possible flashpoint in more than three months of unrest.

The Lennon Walls are large mosaics of Post-it notes calling for democracy and denouncing perceived Chinese meddling in the former British colony that have cropped up in underpasses, under footbridges, outside shopping centers and elsewhere.

Legislator Junius Ho, who has taken a tough stand against the protests, has called for cleanups of 77 Lennon Walls from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, by 100 people at each site.

“We will do this to celebrate the 70th anniversary of our motherland,” he said on his Facebook page, referring to the founding of the Chinese People’s Republic on Oct. 1, 1949.

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Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho argues with a pro-democracy lawmaker before demonstration of a water cannon equipped vehicle at the compound of the Police Tactical Unit in Hong Kong, China on Aug. 12, 2019. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Protesters have vowed not to avoid confrontation but to rebuild the walls afterwards.

The Lennon Walls are named after the original John Lennon Wall in communist-controlled Prague in the 1980s that was covered with Beatles lyrics and messages of political grievance.

Lennon’s 1980 “Double Fantasy” album includes a track called “Cleanup Time.”

The walls have occasionally become flashpoints in recent weeks. Three people were wounded in a knife attack by an unidentified assailant near a Lennon Wall in the Tseung Kwan O district of the New Territories in August.

“We hope citizens will understand areas around Lennon Wall are relatively high-risk,” police official Fang Chi-kin told reporters. “There have been fights and scuffles between people from different backgrounds near these areas.”

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Memos and posters over anti-extradition bill are seen on “Lennon Walls” at Tai Po in Hong Kong, China on Aug. 9, 2019. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Hong Kong’s Jockey Club canceled all races on Wednesday after protesters said they would target the Happy Valley racecourse where a horse part-owned by Ho was due to run.

Ho, who once described the protesters as “black-shirted thugs,” on Thursday pulled the horse, “Hong Kong Bet,” from all races until the protests are over.

Anti-government protesters, many masked and wearing black, have caused havoc in recent weeks, throwing petrol bombs at police, storming the Legislative Council, trashing metro stations, blocking roads to the airport and lighting street fires.

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An anti-government protester holds a placard during a rally at the University of Hong Kong, China on Sept. 20, 2019. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Police have responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. A total of 1,474 people have been arrested, aged between 12 and 84, police said on Friday. So far 207 have been charged, including 79 for rioting.

On Friday, rights group Amnesty International accused police of torture and other abuses in their handling of detained protesters.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that ensures freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including right of assembly and an independent judiciary.

Demonstrators are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing and the protests have broadened into calls for universal suffrage.

By Twinnie Siu and Felix Tam