The Sketchbook Diary of Hong Kong’s Protests

The Sketchbook Diary of Hong Kong’s Protests

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HONG KONG- In a buzzing anthill of protestors rallying the Occupy Hong Kong protests, one ant stands still, watching.

As you leave Admiralty underground station, a megaphone informs protesters where to go, a long queue heads to a Mc Donald’s outlet, flows of supporters come and go without apparent logic. And between the MTR exit and a taxi lane, a consequent amount of goods are picked up and passed from one hand to another, from boxes to boxes.

A fixed silhouette hardly moves in this constantly flowing crowd. Artist Stella So’s arm movements are out of pace. Through the slow and accurate motions of her brushes, time will eventually be blurred, then suspended on paper. She sketches frenetic students, activating among the spread out boxes of supplies that they gathered so far.

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Stella So is a professional illustrator moved by the protests. She considers her sketches as a diary. Her first entry covers the iconic moment when police and protesters faced each other just before teargas was eventually used. This time she is not painting large framed scenes of the crowd occupying the city. She instead focuses on a few students deploying their energy to the service of all protesters. She sketches the ones working in the shadows. The ones that made this long lasting occupation possible.

For the tens of thousands continuously protesting along the government building, volunteers improvised a supply chain covering all kinds of goods from food and water to first aid and teargas protection gear. Admiralty C2 underground exit is one of many gathering points where supplies from donators are deposed, opened, and organised to furnish the distributing stations on the field according to their needs. Donators travel from shops to this rallying point by car, taxi or through the MTR underground network, some repeatedly, to provide the protesters with essential goods for a continuous presence.

Like most of the logistics that allowed for the protest to last, their origin and the decision to set up this rally point is hard to trace. A lot of initiative spirit, willingness to help and improvised communication skills seem to be at play. Tracy Leung and Gloria Cheung were among the students sorting out goods. “It is a voluntary action”, and “we work with students unions” they said. Like every volunteer at the moment when Mrs So was sketching the scene, they belonged to Heng Sang management college.

Pro-democracy supporters hit the street to fight against Beijing’s restrictive framework for the chief executive of Hong Kong 2017 elections. They effectively blocked some key roads for a week now, a mean to obtain full democratic elections and the demission of the current and unpopular chief executive CY Leung.

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Current Hong Kong’s event share a lot of resemblance with the pro-democracy strikes that lead to Tiananmen Square unrest. Stella so remembers:

“1989, I am just a little girl (back then) but I think this event is just like that. I hope it won’t happen. Maybe different. Maybe better.”

China has so far let Hong Kong authorities deal with the protest and played a game of patience. But as every side camps on its position, a middle ground becomes harder to reach and odds of a more violent conclusion are growing.

Beijing doesn’t stay still everywhere. It knows how art can carry a strong political impact and reacts. According to the Right Defence Network NGO In China (Weiquanwang), at least 32 artists supporting the Occupy Central movement have been arrested in mainland China since last week. Enjoying the freedom of the former British colony, Stella So is so far safe in Hong Kong. She might be this little potato she said she is. But in her own way, she also takes risks, serves and helps this political movement just like all these students she admires.

Go
here to watch the video of Stella So's work.