China and Inner Asia
The months of chaotic protests sparked by the unpopular extradition bill have morphed into escalating violence in Hong Kong. As the nature of the protest evolves, Hong Kong people utilize various highly adaptable approaches to express their views and discontents. This roundtable brings together researchers on Hong Kong history, visual culture, and language to ask how art and design, creative use of everyday language, and social media and online platforms serve as important tools for the organization of actions and dissemination of information for a movement that appears to have no central organizers.
Drawing on the massive amount of information about Hong Kong protests’ rapidly evolving daily posts in social media, Wendy Wong discusses how graphic design serves as a tactic to promote, report, and educate the supporters about the ongoing decentralized resistance movement. She argues that the strategy reflects the participatory process of digital democracy activities that take place via online platforms and implemented at multiple protest sites. Doris Sung examines the creative adaptations of Hong Kong-style Cantonese and English in messages of defiance that appear in street art, message walls, and online platforms. Often imbued with dark humor, these creative words and phrases are not only immediately accessible to the general population, they also reflect the resistance to the ongoing imposition from China to popularize Putonghua, simplified Chinese characters, and Mainland-style vocabulary in the Hong Kong education system and daily usage. These varied guerilla tactics have proven to be more effective in perpetuating the months-long movement when compared to the relatively stationary strategies of the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Justin Cheng uses the newly-launched oral history archive “After the Protest” (https://hksi.ubc.ca/after-the-protest/home/) to draw comparison between the Umbrella Movement and the current protests. Rebecca Karl will serve as the chair and discuss the relationship between the reforms in 1990s China and the Hong Kong discontents. She will explore how the nature of “autonomy,” encoded in the Basic Law as an economic but not a political principle, has had cross-border consequences that are as specific to this site and place (China/HK) as they are general to the global neoliberal turn.