Hong Kong 2019: Recap

One of the scenes from Beyond: 海闊天空, an installation by Hong Kong artist Rosanna Li, at Hong Kong Museum of Art. Photo: VC.

What I have written about the Hong Kong Protests 2019 — from an arts and culture perspective — published in BBC Culture, Quartz, Variety, Artnet News, The Art Newspaper, South China Morning Post, Lowy Institute's The Interpreter, and The New York Times, in chronological order:

Umbrella Movement 2.0 Exposes Flaws in One Country, Two Systems
The Interpreter, Lowy Institute
June 14, 2019

"Hong Kong's chief executive is a politically sensitive and delicate position as while it requires the person in the job to walk the fine line between pledging loyalty to Beijing and serving the best interests of Hongkongers. It requires someone who is good at politics and has a great deal of street smart to do the job. But the former straight-A student and long-time civil servant who has been good at executing orders since the colonial days does not seem to have what it takes to run the city. Lam has failed her job spectacularly. And how things pan out in the coming weeks will depend on whether Lam can rectify her mistakes before it is too late. A Tiananmen 2.0 in the heart of Hong Kong is the last thing the world wants." 

Hong Kong Demonstrations Are Driven By Creative Spirit
The Art Newspaper
June 21, 2019

"The political unrest might challenge the stability required for a financial hub and art market, but there is no better time for the future of Hong Kong art." 

As Protests Continue in Hong Kong, the Outcome Could Have Enormous Repercussions for the Global Art Market. Here's Why
artnet News
June 24, 2019

How things will pan out remains to be seen, but many in the art world are hoping that Hong Kong's status quo can be maintained despite the threats rising on both sides of the Pacific. "I just hope the world can see the pivotal position and advantages of Hong Kong as an art market," said one dealer who works with mainland Chinese collectors.

Hong Kong is Our Museum (2006) by MAP Office on show as part of Homeland in Transit in Basel, Switzerland. Courtesy of the artists and Angelika Li

An Art Show in Switzerland Became an Accidental Lens into Hong Kong's Protests
July 4, 2019

"Many visitors are very engaged in the complexity and frustrations in the ever-shifting cultural identity of Hongkongers," said Angelika Li, curator of Homeland in Transit. "Through the recent happenings in our city and with more than 2 million people marching down the streets to have their voices heard, it seems that the city is redefining a collective cultural identity." 

'The Greatest Art Is Going to Be Produced in Hong Kong': Amid Raging Protests, Some See an Opportunity for the City's Art Scene
artnet News
July 15, 2019

Abby Chen, head of contemporary art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco: "This is about being human, and the kind of resistance and resilience that we are seeing. The world should be aware of it. If they are not, they are missing something that is critically important...The greatest art is going to be produced in Hong Kong." 

As Hong Kong Protests Continue, Stars Get Caught Up in the Vitriol 
August 14, 2019

Although many Hong Kong celebrities have remained relatively silent on the issue in fear of retaliation of their career in mainland China, a few have spoken out, including Chapman To, Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Canto-pop singer Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, and singer-actresses Denise Ho and Deanie Ip. Some have come out actively in favour of Beijing, such as actor Tony Leung Ka-fai and Canto-pop stars Alan Tam and Benny Bee, who took part in a pro-police rally on June 30. 

Screen cap of multi-screen live-streaming of Hong Kong protests from one of the videos of YouTuber Chilli Lucas

Hong Kong: Popular Protests, Live-streamed 

The Interpreter, Lowy Institute
August 20, 2019

"Carrie Lam conveniently condemned the protesters, constructing a narrative of how protesters have become mobs or even violent rioters, spread chaos and disorder across the city. It might have worked, had this happened before the age of social media, camera phones and live streaming. But the reality is that most people in Hong Kong have already witnessed the brutality of the police via live broadcasts."

Hong Kong's Protesters Are Trying To Break Free From the 'Old Seafood' Generation 
August 27, 2019

"This is the Hong Kong government's 'old seafood' mentality. They think they know best. They believe that people would only do something if they are paid...But young people prioritise freedom and justice over money and food," said Baleros Irving Alfred of Reclaiming Social Work Movement, a collective of licensed social workers who have been supporting young protesters. 

US-China Trade War and Protests Bring Uncertainty As Hong Kong Auction Houses Head into Busy Autumn Season
The Art Newspaper 
August 29, 2019

Dealers believe that the impact of the Hong Kong protests on the art market is only short term and that the real factor that could dampen art sales in Asia will be the trade war between China and the US.

Singing Showdowns in Hong Kong Pit the City's Unofficial New Anthem Against China's
September 12, 2019

Hong Kong's protest movement is sending Beijing another message this week: When people identify with a song, you don't need a law to make them sing and love it. 

I Have Been Waiting for a Song Like 'Glory to Hong Kong' My Whole Life—I Just Didn't Realise It
The New York Times
September 16, 2019

"As people continue to sing defiantly in the streets and in the malls, what could be a better symbol of our leaderless movement? We don't need a law to tell us what song to respect; we no longer even need Canto-pop stars to tell us what we should sing. Hongkongers have good ears, and good hearts. We know when the right piece of music comes along, one that genuinely represents who we are. May glory be to Hong Kong." 

Sponge Round Cake by South Ho. Courtesy of the artist. 

'Magic Realism Is Our Reality': Two Hong Kong Artists Reflect on the City's History of Protest as the Unrest Approaches Its Fourth Month

artnet News
September 26, 2019

Hong Kong artist Luke Ching Chin-wai: "From the Umbrella Movement [in 2014] to now, we have been unpacking what happened. But we still haven't come to terms with it yet. And now, the [Mass Transit Railway] is not the MTR we used to know. Normal today is not the same as what we were used to. Magic realism is our reality." 

Masterpiece London Will Proceed With a Trimmed-Down Debut in Hong Kong Next Week Amid Continued Protests and Fears of Worse
artnet News
September 27, 2019

Lucie Kitchener, managing director of Masterpiece: "Is this even the right moment to come to Hong Kong for the first time?...But, we absolutely want to do this, and the galleries are incredibly supportive. This showcase is about responding to their commitment—that this is still the right thing to do here."

Badiucao: Meet the Chinese Artist Illustrating the Hong Kong Protests
The Art Newspaper
October 14, 2019

At 33, Badiucao has already achieved what many artists of his age have only dreamed of. Images of his political cartoons slamming China's authoritarian rule and supporting the Hong Kong protests have made headlines in some of the world's most prestigious media outlets. The public loves his work and shares it enthusiastically on social media. And his activism is well-known: a documentary about him was shown on Australian TV in June...But unlike fellow Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei, whose work is widely exhibited internationally, Badiucao is virtually unknown in the art world. 

What Hong Kong's Protests Mean for the City's Art Market: An Upsurge in Creativity Amid Economic Woes
South China Morning Post
November 2, 2019

Hong Kong economic downturn is a serious worry. However, artistic creativity in Hong Kong is booming ... It's worth considering how best to harness the wealth of creativity the unrest has unleashed, particularly that of the young generation, as well as how to archive and study this creative output. Will organisations take up this task without self-censorship? Freedom of expression, after all, is written into Hong Kong's Basic Law. 

An illustration inspired by Japanese manga One Piece widely circulated online. 

The Magical World of Japanese Anime Has Become the Reality of Hong Kong Protesters

November 15, 2019

TV and film producer Peter Tsi, who was the first in Hong Kong to acquire the TV rights to Neon Genesis Evangelion in the 1990s: "Young people are nurtured by Japanese anime and manga, not TVB dramas, Harry Potter or even Disney cartoons. The core values of these titles are about upholding one's ideals, resistance to authorities, and unity. Adults portrayed in these shows are often hypocritical, corrupted and selfish like Shinji's father." 

Hong Kong Protest Movement Gets Its Own Streaming Platform 
November 21, 2019

The team behind the award-winning controversial Hong Kong dystopian drama Ten Years has launched a new streaming platform focusing on short films about the ongoing protests that have gripped the city since June. 

Hong Kong District Council Election: The People's Voice
The Interpreter, Lowy Institute
November 26, 2019

Perhaps history will remember the great work of Carrie Lam, for she has achieved the impossible task of uniting Hongkongers with the crisis the single-handedly created, showing the world their determination and stamina in this ongoing battle for democracy. 

Hong Kong Museum of Art to Reopen in Spite of Escalating Violence of Pro-democracy Protests
The Art Newspaper
November 26, 2019

The Hong Kong Museum of Art will press ahead with its reopening on November 30 after a four-year HK$934m ($119m) expansion despite the escalating violence of the pro-democracy protests that have gripped the city for nearly six months. 

Police Use Tear Gas on Protesters Outside the Newly Re-opened Hong Kong Museum of Art Prompting Safety Fears for Visitors and Works 
The Art Newspaper 
December 2, 2019

Hong Kong police deployed tear gas during a protest yesterday that took place close to the city's Museum of Art (HKMoA) just one day after it reopened its doors to the public. 

A Surprising Number of Artists Were Elected to Hong Kong's District Council. What Comes Next? 
artnet News
December 3, 2019

With the pro-democracy contingent controlling the District Council for the first time, the election results ushered in a new chapter in Hong Kong politics. But they were also a milestone of an unlikely contingent: Hong Kong's arts and cultural scene. Never had the city seen such a significant number of artists and cultural practitioners taking part in an election—and winning. And these newly election district councillors vow to bring artistic thinking into policymaking.

Protesters' mini Stonehenge roadblock in Central. Photo: VC. 
BBC Culture 
December 12, 2019 

Elyse Leaf's illustration is one of the many examples completing the online-offline creative cycle that has been fueling the Hong Kong protests. Drawing references from popular culture and fine art, these creative outputs first propagate the ideologies of the protests in the digital realm. They are dispersed via social media, encrypted messaging platform Telegram and Apple's bluetooth-enabled AirDrop. Then they cross into reality, ending up as protest art objects or performative protests in the streets, turning public spaces into a canvas or an art gallery. Images of streets that are full of these creations travel back to cyberspace and are spread further via social media. 

Riot police disperse crowd outside the Hong Kong Museum of Art on December 1, 2019, after firing tear gas into the crowd during a protest in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: VC. 
artnet News
December 17, 2019

As an art journalist, it may seem unnecessary for me to put myself in danger like many of my colleagues who have been on the frontline on a day-to-day basis, and for whom I have the utmost respect. But these traumatic experiences have opened my eyes to humanity in a new and deeper way, which has inevitably informed the way I cover my own beat and helped me to reflect the true meaning of art. 

December 31, 2019 

While the vivid slogan-driven protest art seen on the streets of Hong Kong, and shared via apps have become the new icons of the city's visual culture, the complexity of the biggest political crisis the city has ever seen demands deeper artistic reflection and investigation. Many Hong Kong artists produced or exhibited works in 2019 that offer insights into the emotional roller coaster the city has experienced since the protests erupted in June. Some egven appear to have foreseen some aspects of the upheavals of the past seen months, as the protests deepened into a political movement of Hong Kong's rights and freedoms. [Video above: Lennon Wall Flag by Badiucao] 

South China Morning Post 
January 1, 2020 

The return of the Hong Kong Museum of Art is an important reminder of what shaped Hong Kong...Like the boats sailing in Victoria Harbour, these cultural treasures leave a wake for us to retrace the city's history: for centuries, Hong Kong has been a safe haven for cultural treasures, a land of freedom for generations of artists to reinvent and express themselves, drawing on the hybrid cultural lineage of East and West. 

As Hong Kong wards off coronavirus, authorities struggle to win trust
The Interpreter, Lowy Institute
January 30, 2020

But such an unprecedented level of panic is caused not just by fear, but by the lack of trust. Reactions of the people of Hong Kong and the international community are a vote of no confidence in the authorities' abilities to protect people and contain the virus. Authorities here are not only the Hong Kong and the Chinese governments, but also the World Health Organisation, which is supposed to "lead partners in global health responses". 

The Hong Kong protests didn't cancel this year's Art Basel, but coronavirus did 
February 7, 2020

Concerns over whether the March events would go ahead began mounting during the ongoing Hong Kong protests that started last June. But in the end, it was the virus outbreak, which has infected more than 31,000 in mainland China and claimed close to 640 lives since it began in December, that forced fair organisers to finally call off the events. 

The Future of the Past: On Fruit Chan and Made in Hong Kong 
March 5, 2020 

[Made in Hong Kong's] portrayal of a desperate young man's last-resort vengeance is almost a prophecy for Hong Kong as told by Cassandra, the tragic Greek mythological figure cursed with the ability to see the future. No one would've expected that Hong Kong could find itself embroiled in the greatest political crisis in its history, descending into the unthinkable. But as we have witnessed these events unfold in Hong Kong over the past years, we have initially realised that the future of the past has has finally caught up with the present. The best artists look at the world with critical eyes and transform their vision into art that serves as a reminder, a lesson, a question of the status quo, and sometimes a warning. They are the Cassandras of our times, and Fruit Chan is one of them. 

January 3, 2020 

The International Film Festival Rotterdam is to be the first major cultural event to react to the ongoing Hong Kong political protests. It will put on a programme showcasing recent films that chronicle the city's biggest social upheaval as well as archival classics to contextualise the latest offerings. 

Hong Kong content creators and YouTube spar over coronavirus-related fare
March 18, 2020

YouTube has been accused of political censorship by a group of leading Hong Kong content creators who claim the streaming giant has been barring their politically charged video clips—including coronavirus-related content—from reaching advertisers. 

How people power has flattened the Covid curve in Hong Kong
The Interpreter, Lowy Institute
March 20, 2020

It might sound like we were overreacting initially, but with the painful lessons from Sars—which in 2002-03 killed 299, including many medical workers—imprinted in our memories, and months of Hong Kong protests that have sent people's trust in the government to a historical low, we know that no one is more reliable than our disciplined selves. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that Hong Kong people's spirit of resistance and resilience inspired by the ongoing pro-democracy protests has protected them from the deadly virus. 

In Hong Kong, buying locally-grown vegetables is more than just about fighting coronavirus
April 2, 2020

"Supporting local farms is a form of resistance. Eradicating local farms and local food supply is a way to force us to rely on imports from mainland. It is a way to tighten the control over Hong Kong," said housewife Josephine Liu, who shops for locally grown vegetables. 

To be continued...

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