Hong Kong's Protest Art Is a Blend of Wolves, Umbrellas, Dicks, and Zombies

Photographs of some of the countless illustrations on display at Occupy Central.

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Oct 10 2014, 7:50pm

The John Lennon Wall, which contains tens of thousands of Post-Its, notes, and drawings in support of the Hong Kong protests. All photos by the author

The Hong Kong protests have been given many names, among them "Occupy Central," the "Umbrella Revolution," and the "Umbrella Movement." But perhaps a more apt name would be "the Polite Protest." Never before have I seen a group of people so determined for change go about their mission in such a well-mannered, peaceful way.

No litter is strewn about, signs thanking people for their observation or participation are everywhere, and the protesters line up to wait their turn to go over barricades, where they're helped up and down on each side by two volunteers making sure they don't slip or fall. 

"Please, careful. You are very welcome here. Thank you very much," is something I'm told virtually every time I'm helped over a barrier. And in the downtime, when there aren't speeches being made or food or water being passed around, the protesters-a large majority of whom are students-can be seen doing their homework as they camp out in the streets.

From the students' considerate disposition, to their determination, to a level of political awareness that's arguably unmatched among the youth of Western countries, there's much to be admired here. Another aspect to be praised is all the artwork, created by protesters, taped and tacked up around the protest areas. Below is a small percentage of that.

A single note taped to the ad hoc John Lennon Wall, which contains tens of thousands of Post-Its, notes, and drawings in support of the Hong Kong protests. The dove flying against the rain carries the yellow ribbon, which has come to symbolize support for the protests. The words read "Embrace Freedom."

One of the dozens of one-of-a-kind line drawings taped around the Admiralty MTR station-the central hub of the protests. The anime girl is surrounded by four umbrellas in addition to the one she is holding. The characters on the umbrellas read, "Hong Kong Democracy," and the characters on the masking tape say, "We support Hong Kong."

A sketch depicting the area between the two pedestrian footbridges across Connaught Road Central, which is normally a six-lane highway but is now blocked by thousands of protesters who organize, eat, do their homework, and sleep on it. Three days ago one distraught protester climbed to the footbridge's central arch and threatened to jump. The characters read: "Fuel for the charge. We support Hong Kong."

A poster of Tebybear, the character created by Hong Kong-based fashion designer, stylist and illustrator Teby Chow. Tebybear wears a respirator mask common among commuters in Hong Kong and he holds the yellow umbrella that has come to symbolize the protests. The characters mirror the "Umbrella Revolution" wording on the poster.

A drawing of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, CY Leung, who's not exactly popular with the protesters. Leung has been accused of being a puppet for Beijing. The protesters see him as a shill and are demanding his resignation. The numbers "689" reference the number of electoral votes Leung won his Chief Executive role with in 2012-a 57 percent majority. The wolf is frequently seen in protester artwork because Leung's name sounds like the Chinese word for "wolf."

In tune with the communal spirit of the protests, one person made these faceless images and distributed them. They allow anyone to draw Leung's likeness as they see him. The characters say, "Shameless asshole."

Water bottles used by the protesters to quench their thirst in the 86-degree heat. These have been arranged in the form of an umbrella and mark the spot where the first protester camped out on Connaught Road Central.

Posters showing Leung in the likeness of King Kong. He perches atop a Hong Kong skyscraper, content in his rule over the city. The characters say, "Overriding Hong Kong."

Another image of Leung. Here, he's represented as a zombie with grasshoppers crawling from open wounds in his undead head. In China, grasshoppers represent good luck and abundance, suggesting these two forces-which the protesters believe they possess-could devour the zombie Leung. The characters say, "We support Hong Kong."

Paddington Bear makes a trip from the UK to Hong Kong to support the Umbrella Revolution. The bear, known for his politeness-like the protesters-faces overreaction from the heavily armored police.

A line drawing of Leung imagined as the genie from Aladdin-a Middle Eastern folk story set in China. The broken lamp signifies the broken system Leung presides over. The characters say "come out," a common refrain at the demonstrations, as many protesters say Leung hides behind the television cameras and refuses to address the protesters in person.

This banner from the footpath over Connaught Road Central says everyone below could be a hero like Batman.

A banner professing love, thanks and peace to both the protesters and the people who support them. The yellow ribbon reads, "We Support Hong Kong."

An installation of multicolored umbrellas showing support for the protesters in Hong Kong.

This group of young people, some of them students, are representative of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong pushing for a fairer, more transparent democracy. The man in the white shirt in the middle is Ming Kin Yuen, 20, and the man in the black shirt next to him is Hinson Ling, 21.

Both helped me translate and contextualize the dozens of protest artwork pictures I took. They and their friend continue to make signs in support of the Umbrella Revolution.

Thanks to Hinson Ling, Ming Kin Yuen, and their friends for helping me translate the characters in some of the art. It should be noted that any translation errors are mine and mine alone. 

Follow Michael on Twitter.

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