Hong Kong activists skirt security curbs with coded slogans and blank walls

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From blank post-it notes to coded slogans hidden in murals, Hong Kong activists are coming up with creative ways to skirt Beijing’s new national security law.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters raise white paper to avoid slogans banned under the national security law as they support arrested anti-law protester outside Eastern court in Hong Kong, China July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The anti-government protest movement that escalated in June last year spawned an explosion of public art and graffiti, some of it calling for independence for the Chinese-ruled territory or urging residents to “liberate” the financial hub.

But the city’s government said last week the popular slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”, daubed on walls and banners, amounted to a call for separatism or subversion – offences punishable with long jail terms under the new law.

In response, one 50-year-old campaigner held up a blank sheet of paper at a small lunch-time protest on Monday.

The point, he said was to highlight what he saw as censorship. And everyone already knew the slogans by heart, he added, so there was no longer any need to write them down.

“These slogans will always be in my heart and those words will always stay on white paper, which will never disappear,” said the man, who wore a mask and only gave his surname, Leung.

Elsewhere in the city, walls that were once colourful canvases of political murals and graffiti tags were covered over in white paint or blank post-it notes.

Other protesters used art or designs to disguise the “Liberate Hong Kong” slogans, changing characters, blurring lettering or burying the words in illustrations.

Back at the protest, another man in a black cap and white surgical mask hung a banner from his neck with the words: “Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves” – a call for change that might be harder to prosecute as it is a line from China’s national anthem.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong say the law that came into force last week targets a minority of “troublemakers”. But protesters and international critics have called it a Chinese encroachment on the city’s cherished freedoms.

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