Review of 2021 and Trying to Keep Hope Alive for 2022
January 29, 2022
As we welcome the Year of the Tiger and say good riddance to the Year of the Ox, I hope to find you well.
Looking back on what happened this 2021 year, what can we hope for in 2022?
How does one sound the death knell of a once vibrant society whose people seamlessly merged the best of the cultures, characters and values of the east and the west?
Did it start with Mr. Lam Wing Kee, the Hong Kong bookseller whom Visual Artists Guild honored in 2017, who left Hong Kong for Taiwan as the 2019 Extradition bill was being proposed? The Extradition bill would have allowed Hong Kong to honor China's request to extradite Hong Kong residents to China to face prosecution.
Or was it the disbandment of more than 50 civil societies including Amnesty International in Hong Kong and especially the Hong Kong Alliance, the group which led the annual commemoration of the Tiananmen Massacre each June 4.
What is most representative of Hong Kong's loss of civil liberties was the closing of Apple Daily, the popular pro-democracy newspaper which the government froze its assets and its founder Jimmy Lai and top editors were sent to jail. Besides Apple Daily, other independent news media are either forced to close or found it necessary to close to protect their staff. Self-censorship is the only form of survival now whether in print or in speech.
Over reach by the Hong Kong government against civil society can best be demonstrated by the charges against five therapists for publishing children's books about sheep and wolves.
Still let us not forget that of the 7 million habitants in Hong Kong, 2 million joined in the protest in 2019; a peaceful protest involving all sectors of society and age groups. They will continue to advocate for Hong Kong whether within Hong Kong or as exiles in various countries around the world.
It is estimated that more of 90,000 HongKongers have left Hong Kong since the National Security Law went into effect. A brain drain of 1000 teachers and 4500 secondary students in the last academic year probably resulted from teachers refusing to follow the new CCP imposed curriculum and parents refusing to let their children be brainwashed by the new curriculum. In my own alma mater of Maryknoll Convent secondary school, 8.4 % of the secondary students have left.
These exiles will help form as advocates for Hong Kong civil liberties. An example is the Visual Artists Guild led open letter signed by 28 NGOs asking the U.S. based law firm Mayer Brown to rescind their agreement to represent Hong Kong University in demanding the removal of the Danish artist Jens Galschiot's sculpture "Pillar of Shame" from the University campus. Mayer Brown Law Firm did terminate their agreement. As typical of Hong Kong's CCP collaborators, during the Christmas holiday, the Hong Kong University dismantled the sculpture in the dead of night.
In addition to wiping out the "Pillar of Shame" sculpture, two sculptures by artist Chen Weiming were also removed. Mr. Chen's interpretation of the Goddess of Democracy was removed from City University of Hong Kong and his wall relief of the Spring of 1989 and subsequent Massacre, was removed from the Hong Kong Lingnan University. The destruction of any public memory of the Tiananmen Massacre is being systematically carried out.
While our victory on Mayer Brown seemed hallow, we found that pressuring U.S. or western businesses may be a path towards possible change going forward.
Visual Artists Guild thank you for your support throughout the years.
We shall continue to advocate for the right of freedom of speech and expression as our mission stated.
The Board of Visual Artists Guild wish you a prosperous new year and a safe year!
Chair, Visual Artists Guild