Published1 day ago
A digital billboard artwork in Hong Kong which included secret references to local dissidents has been removed.
The No Rioters piece by US artist Patrick Amadon had been displayed the past week on the side of a department store in central Hong Kong.
The artist revealed the deception last week, which involved inserting names of jailed activists in flashing text that couldn’t be seen by the naked eye.
He told the BBC he had created it in “solidarity” with protesters.
The 24-second video, which also featured a panning surveillance camera, had included the details of jailed pro-democracy protesters. This could be seen in photographs of the artwork.
Mr Amadon said on Friday the artwork’s removal “completed” its political message about the crackdown on the city’s civil freedoms.
“A few years ago, this art would have been a free and legal expression. For the government to take it down now objectively demonstrates how Hong Kong has changed and completes the art work,” Mr Amadon told the BBC.
Hong Kong authorities have yet to comment on the artwork and it’s unclear if any request was made to have it removed.
However, the gallery organisers of the artwork told media the owners of the affected Sogo department store had ordered for it to be taken down.
Francesca Boffetti, from the Milan-based Art Innovation Gallery told AFP the store owners had made the call for the display to be wiped from the 1,400 square metre billboard on Thursday.
The piece had this week been displayed during the Art Basel fair and other events during Hong Kong’s Art Week. The Hong Kong government has sought to promote the city’s return as a cultural hub after years of pandemic curbs.
The artwork’s removal is just the latest act of censorship in the city – and comes after planned screenings of a Winnie the Pooh horror movie were cancelled. The children’s book character has been adopted as a critical reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping in recent years.
On Thursday, Mr Amadon tweeted his artwork had been “taken down today at the request of the government”.
In response to a report by the pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po calling him “pro-rioters”, he said: “This is correct.”
His artwork had listed the names of prominent pro-democracy activists including student leader Joshua Wong, legal scholar Benny Tai and journalist Gwyneth Ho.
They are part of the so-called Hong Kong 47 group – who are on trial for alleged “subversion” under a controversial national security law.
The title of the artwork is also a reference to “No rioters, only tyranny”, a popular slogan used by Hong Kong protesters in 2019.
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China. Under its “one country, two systems” principle, residents are supposed to enjoy certain freedoms unavailable on the mainland.
But these rights have been eroded since Beijing in 2020 imposed a national security law in response to months-long protests against Beijing’s control in 2019.
Beijing said the law was needed to bring stability to the city – but critics said it was designed to squash dissent, and weaken Hong Kong’s autonomy.