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Exposing The Walls: Hong Kong's Visual Protests

Printed warfare is a common sight in Hong Kong these days. To some, they're seen as people indirectly supporting each other through a common cause, while others see it as one-sided propaganda.

With so many things to do in Hong Kong, I didn't expect my first to be spent looking at walls. Walking over the striped green floors under fluorescent lighting, I see colorful grids of paper neatly pasted along the tile walls. As a group of teens are adjusting a set of makeshift lanterns with little umbrellas marked on them for Mid-Autumn Festival, I notice the locals passing through are stopping to stare at the mosaic of black and yellow. Illustrations of fighters with gas masks and construction helmets on, photos of a father putting protection gear on his infant child, and drawings of bloody police officers with a devilish grin. The ones who are halted by the imagery cement themselves to the area before moving on with their day. With their eyes fixed to the wall, it's as if they are seeing these pictures for the very first time.

From Czech to Chinese

Printed warfare is a common sight in Hong Kong these days. Protestors march the streets with hands gripped in a fist, shouting insults at any riot police they see. In their outstretched arms hold red posters of the Chinese flag with stars aligned as a swastika. "Chinazi," it reads. Those who prefer a lighter approach grasp words for democracy. A man held one of these posters right to my face. In Chinese, it said, "I thought water was a basic fish right... and I thought freedom was a basic human right..." Similar slogans moving towards the same goal provide a glimpse at how these protestors feel in the moment, and Hong Kong's Lennon Walls serve as a daily disruption between protests.

Anti-government graffiti, or Lennon Walls, is a symbol for dissidence from the people to their legislature. Born in a small-city square in the Czech Republic, the movement of printed protest swept the globe after the assassination of John Lennon. Those who wanted their voices heard anonymously now had a platform to do so, which is why Lennon Walls are used everywhere in Hong Kong now.

Board meets world

Protestors spread their message in colorful Post-it notes and fliers taped along bridges and urban roads. Whoever reads the walls get a better sense of why citizens are protesting, and those out marching the streets express their unity anonymously. To some, they're seen as people indirectly supporting each other through a common cause, while others see it as one-sided propaganda.

“I thought water was a basic fish right... and I thought freedom was a basic human right...”

These rows of information shine a light to where protests fall short, but they're rarely left unopposed. Walls placed throughout the city are torn down as fast as they are constructed. It's no surprise to see a Lennon Wall erected somewhere, only to be removed or replaced by a different view. It can be seen in the eyes of protesters as sacrilegious to remove these walls from the public eye. To express different views or even as going as far as removing the walls can lead to aggression.

Male protester holding sign in Hong KongHong Kong Police Force overlooking protesters in Hong KongMale protester holding Chinazi protest signMan reading protest signs in Hong Kong
Protest signs held by marchers during rallies in Central, Hong Kong

Assaulting someone for having a different opinion is becoming the norm now. While disagreements between citizens are certain, these walls become a different type of fight during this time of conflict - a battle of information. Word of mouth travels faster than print these days, but nothing can stop a person in their tracks than a wall of printed disruption. Those who have the most exposure will carry the advantage.

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About the Author

Life of Wu John Wu headshot

John Wu

From a passion of photography - I use my camera to document the world of current events and trending topics.

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