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The Memes and Art From Hong Kong’s Million Person March Last Sunday

Creative communities in Hong Kong and beyond have made poignant works of art and internet memes in support of the anti-extradition bill protests.

Members of the Student Labour Action Coalition stage a performance demonstration in Hong Kong to raise awareness ahead of Sunday’s march. (courtesy of the Student Labour Action Coalition)

HONG KONG  — Time and time again, the creative communities in Hong Kong have come together to fight for their rights both on the streets and through their artwork. This was true of the 2012 protest opposing a patriotic education reform as well as the 2014 Occupy/Umbrella Movement fight for universal suffrage. Last Sunday’s march, which drew 1.03 million protestors to the streets to oppose an extradition bill, was no exception.

The proposed bill would establish an extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Mainland China where there currently is none. Being tied to China’s justice system is not a welcome prospect for the people of Hong Kong, who are aware of the country’s reputation of imprisoning its political opponents. Furthermore, the bill violates Hong Kong’s right to retain an independent judiciary, which was promised for 50 years when the city was “handed over” back to China by the UK.

Haunted by this uncertain future, the people who marched the streets last Sunday made history with their sheer numbers. They also made some incredible works of art and internet memes in support of this protest.

Art on the march

On the streets, this set of “No China Extradition” posters by the Neo Democrats party dominated many parts of the protest with its evocative, bilingual hand and chain imagery:

A throng of protestors wave bilingual “No China Extradition” posters (courtesy Lokman Tsui)

Not far behind, the People Power group vied for a more pop-culture approach by remixing political messages into popular movie and TV franchises:

China President Xi as Thanos, the ultimate villain from Marvel’s Avengers series, and Hong Kong/China government officials as characters in a Game of Thrones style poster titled “Gang of Tyrants.” (courtesy of People Power)

Handmade signs and sculptures also flourished along the march. I particularly enjoyed this team effort of speech bubbles signs, this artfully drawn Godzilla in Hong Kong, and the luncheon meat sculpture by artist Luke Ching:

Signs on the left say: “Oppose!,” “Public opinion is here,” and “Oppose China extradition.” Sign in the middle says: “China extradition bill / Swallows you whole!” The lid of the food can  on the right says, “Don’t trust the luncheon meat [in reference to a recent food safety scandal].” (Middle photograph courtesy of and by Christina Lee. Left and right images by the author.)

Design to motivate the masses

The week before the protest, graphic designers, illustrators, and cartoonists banded together on Facebook under the hashtag #香港設計師反對修訂逃犯條例 (Hong Kong Designers Oppose the Extradition Bill).

These two plays on Chinese typography — by Karman L’Ull and AhTo respectively — were particularly popular, bold and chilling:

On the left, the characters for Hong Kong are whittled down gradually until only the character for communist is left. On the right, one of the characters for the word China is used as a prison for two characters for Hong Kong. (Image on the left courtesy of Karman L’Ull, Image on the right courtesy of 阿塗)

And this clever remix of the FedEx logo by Hajime Chan eventually found its way to a rally of solidarity in San Francisco:

What do you get when you put FedEx and China Extradition together? A fearfully swift extradition. (Used with permission from the photographer)

Remixing memes to boost morale

On the ever-popular LIHKG Forum (a Reddit-like community), user @陶傑出青年 made a public appeal to create memes to boost morale, encourage discussion and because “they’ve played a useful role in events like these in foreign countries.” I was especially impressed (but also sufficiently chilled by) this TV subtitle job:

Two smug men in suits confront a naive citizen in a TV soap opera. (courtesy of @另類重口味)

Forum members also incorporated many popular North American memes into their work, such as this I Killed A Man remix (June 9th refers to the day of the protest):

An American webcomic meme in Hong Kong (courtesy of @陶傑出青年)

Then discussions broke out about translating memes into English to attract the attention of other countries. For example, members of the community iterated on this American Chopper Argument meme about Carrie Lam (the Chief Executive of Hong Kong who has been actively supporting the extradition bill) before it was eventually translated:

Two white men furiously argue about … Hong Kong politics (courtesy of @中國最後領導人, @數據撚)

Despite all the memes, strikes, and protestors, the Hong Kong government has continued moving full steam ahead with their new extradition bill (though after violent clashes between protesters and police on June 12, the official consideration of the bill will be pushed back by at least two days). Much like Thanos, the supervillain from Marvel’s Avengers series, our leaders are unfazed by their hasty decisions and acts of cruelty. Intent on casting forth a business-as-usual image to the world, they pretend that their actions are logical, inevitable, and benevolent — even as they mobilize the city’s police force en masse to clear out protestors who’ve overstayed their welcome after the march, and at subsequent protests.

But the protest art and memes will continue to come, no matter how fierce the crackdown, as people continue to voice their discontent at their government and support of the protestors.

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