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The sci-fi movie “Arrival” has Hong Kongers paranoid about an invasion—but not one by aliens

Paramount Pictures
One of these has the Oriental Pearl Tower in the correct city.
By Zheping Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A Shanghai landmark has become part of Hong Kong’s skyline—at least in a poster for an upcoming Hollywood movie. The misplacement has sparked anger among Hong Kongers, some of whom read a political message behind it.

Arrival, an upcoming sci-fi thriller from Paramount Pictures, is about a linguist played by Amy Adams trying to communicate with aliens who have mysteriously come to Earth. The film’s 12 posters, released this week, each focus on a different part of the world, and feature gigantic hovering spaceships with the tagline “Why are they here?”

One of them shows Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor as the backdrop—but with Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower standing prominently in the city’s Central district. One Instagram user changed “Why are they here?” on the poster to “Why am I here?” with a line pointing to the out-of-place building.

Hong Kongers flooded the film’s official Facebook page. In the comments section of the offending poster, they used the hashtag #HongKongisnotChina to express their dissatisfaction. The poster was soon deleted, and this morning (Aug. 19) the film company ran an apology on Facebook and Twitter, saying the mistake was created by a third-party vendor.

Not everyone is impressed with the explanation. “So the 3rd party vendor released the poster with no acknowledgement or approval?… What an excuse,” one Hong Konger commented under the apology on Facebook. Another said: “Did you hire a mainland third party vendor? if yes, that makes perfect sense, mainland Chinese envy Hong Kong but they denied, and they are trying very hard to rob Hong Kong.”

In Hong Kong cultural topics can easily turn into political ones when mainland China is involved. In May, a political group called for a boycott of Nintendo after the gaming company dropped Cantonese character names in the Pokemon franchise in favor of Mandarin ones for the local market. (The protest led to no changes.)

Paramount Pictures
A scene from the trailer. The text reads, “The Navy is sent to the East China Sea.”

No doubt the poster’s architectural invasion reminds many Hong Kongers of Beijing’s creeping influence over the semi-autonomous city. Some local politicians have taken advantage of the erroneous poster to promote their campaigns, and an independent Hong Kong has become a regular topic of discussion in the city ahead of September’s Legislative Council election.

The film company’s solution to the poster problem didn’t likely placate angry Hong Kongers. In the next version, Hong Kong was replaced entirely by Shanghai.

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