A new mural intended to pay tribute to Hong Kong’s 2019 protesters and raise awareness of the struggle for democracy has become the latest addition to the Liberty Sculpture Park in the town of Yermo in California.
Completed last Wednesday and launched over the weekend, the mural is a project of the Lion Rock Cafe in New York, with the support of the Hong Kong Forum in Los Angeles.
The artwork , entitled “Come What May,” depicts crouching black-clad protesters in yellow hardhats protecting themselves from swirls of tear gas with gas masks and yellow umbrellas, a quintessential scene from the pro-democracy protests.
The mural is flanked by the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” The phrase has been deemed “subversive” by the Hong Kong government, who have said it is illegal under the Beijing-imposed national security law.
Designed by a Hong Kong artist who uses the alias “Divad,” the mural was painted by New York-based Australian graffiti artist Damien Mitchell, who had travelled to California to paint in the desert for four days.
The mural’s completion is the culmination of one and a half years of planning. It was originally designed for display in New York but organisers decided to erect it instead at the Liberty Sculpture Park due to pandemic complications.
“Beneath our umbrellas is an idea, and that idea is bulletproof,” reads a quote from Divad on the side of the mural, which measures 2.7 metres x 3.7 metres. The yellow umbrella became a symbol of Hong Kong’s fight for democracy during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, which saw tens of thousands of people occupying some of the city’s main roads for 79 days to demand genuine universal suffrage.
“We hope that one day, Divad can stand out and be proud of his art without the fear of political prosecution in Hong Kong,” the Lion Rock Cafe said in a statement on Saturday.
Liberty Sculpture Park is located off Interstate 15, a popular route which connects Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The park already hosts other works paying tribute to the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong and mainland China.
The park is home to the largest sculpture paying tribute to victims of the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, during which hundreds or possibly thousands of pro-democracy protesters are believed to have been killed by the Chinese military.
The mural organisers say they hope it will raise awareness among passing drivers of Hong Kong’s plight. “Continue the fight against tyranny!” the cafe tweeted on Saturday.
In mid-2019, peaceful demonstrations against a bill that would have allowed Hongkongers to be extradited to mainland China grew into months of city-wide pro-democracy protests which often saw violent clashes between young protesters and riot police.
In response to the unrest, Beijing imposed the national security law last June which the local government said was necessary to restore order in the city. Since then, over 100 people have been since arrested whilst Amnesty International said last week that the measures have been used to stifle dissent.
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