‘Hidden language’: Hong Kongers get creative against security law

‘Hidden language’: Hong Kongers get creative against security law
Protesters are finding creative ways to voice dissent gainst a new national security law in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 04 July 2020

‘Hidden language’: Hong Kongers get creative against security law

‘Hidden language’: Hong Kongers get creative against security law
  • Residents are using word play and even subverting Chinese Communist Party dogma to express their frustration
  • Others have gone for English slogans that appear positive but are a clear dig at Beijing

HONG KONG: Hong Kongers are finding creative ways to voice dissent after Beijing blanketed the city in a new security law and police began arresting people displaying now forbidden political slogans.
Faced with the sudden threat of prosecution for anything that might promote greater autonomy or independence for the restless city, residents are using word play and even subverting Chinese Communist Party dogma to express their frustration.
On a bridge in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, a key spot for pro-democracy protests over the past year, traffic thunders past newly daubed graffiti that declares: “Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves.”
The phrase is taken from the first line of China’s national anthem.
And while the graffiti could conceivably have been written by a patriotic nationalist, it is most likely a declaration of dissent.
Social media and chat forums have filled with suggestions for how to find safer ways to protest after Beijing on Tuesday imposed broad legislation banning subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion.
In a semi-autonomous city used to speaking its mind, people will find ways around the law, said Chan Kin-man, a veteran democracy activist who has previously been jailed for his activism.
“In a public space, one might either not say anything or use an ‘officially-approved’ language to protect themselves,” he said. “But hidden language is something that cannot be banned by laws.”
The local government on Thursday said the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” would now be deemed illegal.
For some the phrase represents genuine aspirations to split Hong Kong from China, a red line for Beijing, but for many others it is a more general cry for democracy and an expression of rising frustration with Chinese rule.
But coded language is allowing people to keep the slogan alive.
One version “GFHG, SDGM” uses English letters from the transliterated phrase “gwong fuk heung gong, si doi gak ming.”
Another more complex example mimics the tone and rhythm of the slogan using the numbers “3219 0246” in Cantonese.
Chinese characters themselves also provide ample room for linguistic subversion.
One phrase people have started adopting online is “seize back banana,” a play on the similar characters in traditional Chinese for Hong Kong and banana.
Others have gone for English slogans that appear positive but are a clear dig at Beijing — for example the Trumpian phrase “Make Hong Kong Great.”
The very first arrest made under the new security law involved a deliberate linguistic challenge.
During protests a day after the law was enacted, police announced they had arrested a man with a flag that read “Hong Kong Independence,” posting a picture.
But eagle-eyed web sleuths zoomed in on the flag and spotted that a man had written a small “No” before his much larger phrase.
The same phrase has since gone viral online.
Multiple pro-democracy restaurants and shops across the city have taken down their “Lennon Wall” displays expressing support for the pro-democracy movement after some were warned by police that they might violate the national security law.
The walls are often made up of colorful sticky notes with protest slogans on them.
One cafe replaced its wall with blank memos.
“What is essential is invisible to the eyes,” the shop wrote on its Facebook citing popular children’s book “Le Petit Prince.”
Another symbol of defiance that has replaced some protest art across the city is blank white pages.
The gesture represents the inability to speak out and also “white terror,” a Chinese phrase used to describe political persecution.
“Suppression catalyzes people to fight back,” said Chan, who is also a sociology professor.
He likened the situation with how people in mainland China reveal dissent or anger toward the government with a wink and a nod.
“Hong Kong people will definitely respond more actively, it’s just that it might happen in a grey area.”
A slogan that went viral this week was a quote by Chinese dictator Mao Zedong.
It read: “Those who suppress the student movements will not come to a good end.”


Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
Updated 23 January 2021

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
  • The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia
  • Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed”

MOSCOW: Russian police detained dozens of protesters on Saturday as supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny took to the streets following his call to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Putin’s most vocal domestic critic called for mass rallies after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent and returning to Moscow last weekend following months of treatment in Germany. He was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport and jailed.
The rallies — planned for dozens of cities across Russia — are expected to be a major test of the opposition’s ability to mobilize despite the increasing Kremlin pressure on critics and the coronavirus pandemic.
The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia including Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Chita where several thousand took to the streets, Navalny supporters said.
OVD Info, which monitors detentions at opposition rallies, said around 50 people were detained in 10 cities.
Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed.”
In Moscow, which usually mobilizes the largest rallies, protesters plan to meet in the central Pushkin Square at 2:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) and then march toward the Kremlin.

On the eve of the rallies, Navalny, who is being held in Moscow’s high-security Matrosskaya Tishina jail, thanked his supporters.
“I know perfectly well that there are lots of good people outside of my prison’s walls and help will come,” he said on Friday.
Navalny’s wife Yulia said she would join the protest in Moscow. “For myself, for him, for our children, for the values and the ideals that we share,” she said on Instagram.
Ahead of the demonstrations several key Navalny aides were taken into police custody for violating protest laws and handed short jail sentences to keep them away from the rallies.
The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Friday it launched a criminal probe into the calls for unauthorized protests.
A hastily organized court on Monday jailed Navalny for 30 days, and his supporters fear that authorities are preparing to sentence him to a long prison term to silence him.
Navalny’s team this week released an investigation into an opulent Black Sea property allegedly owned by Putin.
The “Putin’s palace” report alleges the Russian leader owns a 17,691 square meter mansion that sits on a property 39 times the size of Monaco and features a casino along with a theater and a hookah lounge complete with a pole-dancing stage.
The two-hour video report had been viewed more than 65 million times since Tuesday, becoming the Kremlin critic’s most-watched YouTube investigation.
The Kremlin has denied the property belongs to Putin.
Many Russians took to social media — including video sharing app TikTok hugely popular with teens — to voice support and urge a large turnout on Saturday.
A hashtag demanding freedom for Navalny was trending on TikTok as Russians flooded the Chinese app with thousands of videos.
Russia’s media watchdog warned online platforms against encouraging minors to participate in the rallies or risk hefty fines.
The watchdog said on Friday that media platforms, including TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, removed content at its request.
Russia’s most popular social network VKontakte blocked groups created to coordinate the protests in different cities.
But a number of public figures — including those who usually steer clear of politics — have spoken out in Navalny’s support.
Navalny, 44, rose to prominence a decade ago and has become the central figure of Russia’s opposition movement, leading large-scale street protests against corruption and electoral fraud.
His arrest drew widespread Western condemnation, with the United States, the European Union, France and Canada all calling for his release.