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AP Photo/Andy Wong
Art imitating life.
PICTURES WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Hong Kong has become a gallery of protest poster art

By Ilaria Maria Sala

More than seven weeks of street protests in Hong Kong have led to a flourishing of political art, with posters, leaflets, stickers, and stamps turning up on city walls, in the subway system, or being shared on social media and messaging groups. Their creativity and witticisms have injected a lighter tone even as political tensions have increased.

Posters have marked moments in previous marches—sparked in June by opposition to a bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China—encouraged turnout, and reflected on changing protester tactics. This illustration by cartoonist Kit Da Sketch shows how demonstrators are channeling actor and martial-arts master Bruce Lee’s “Be water, my friend” philosophy to deal with the police:

As the weeks have gone by, the movement has broadened to revive old calls for democracy, and seen flashpoints with pro-China groups. The artists behind these posters have responded rapidly to the latest happenings, such as the violent attack by a white-shirted mob on passengers at the train station in the northern suburb of Yuen Long on Sunday (July 21). Police, who are already under fire with accusations of using excessive force on protesters, didn’t arrive in time to help people before the mob left, leading to even more public anger against them.

The episode was quickly illustrated in a dark, forbidding poster with a traditional wood-cut print look. (We’ve tried to credit the posters being circulated on social media as accurately as possible. If you spot any errors, please let us know.):

Another poster mimicked the spare graphics of Hong Kong’s underground system, to condemn the lack of help forthcoming from the police, despite numerous calls made by people to the emergency services.

Another image uses graphics reminiscent of video games:

In full manga style, this poster gives due relevance to the characteristic gear of the protesters: hard hats, goggles, face masks, and plastic wrap to protect themselves from pepper spray, tear gas, and police batons:

Sometimes, Hong Kong protesters are also supported by Chinese artists who’ve sought safety overseas: Most active among them is Australia-based Badiucao. In one of his most recent drawings, reminiscent of the classical style of Chinese ink paintings, he shows Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and Chinese president Xi Jinping covered in Post-it notes—just like the “Lennon Walls” that have sprouted across Hong Kong containing messages of encouragement:

This cartoon is from Rebel Pepper, a Chinese political cartoonist living in Washington, DC:

Earlier this month, when Lam had announced that the controversial extradition bill was “dead” (instead of officially withdrawn, as protesters have been demanding) some felt that her words reminded them of Quentin Tarantino’s famous movie Kill Bill. In a parody, Uma Thurman, the movie’s heroine, becomes Carrie Lam:

More recently, after police announced they wouldn’t issue a permit to protesters to march in Yuen Long on Saturday (July 27), the suburb where the thug attacks took place, images inviting people to the suburb to “hike” or “shop” have been circulating.

Hong Kong’s witty political creativity has never been on greater display.