Graffiti outside a Central restaurant showing two labourers with yellow construction helmets has been painted over by the government following complaints that the image “may violate” the 2020 national security law. The artwork represented the eatery’s frequent customers and was at least a decade old, the owner has said.

By Friday, a new mural had appeared, featuring a character without a helmet. Yellow is associated with the pro-democracy movement, whist construction helmets were often used as protection by protesters during the 2019 demonstrations and unrest.

Graffiti of theGraffiti of the restaurant, which consisted of two parts. The first part was the construction worker on the right and the rest belongs to the second part.
Graffiti at the Central restaurant before the government intervention. Photo: Glorious Fast Food Facebook.

The Central and Western District Office under the Home Affairs Department removed the artwork last week, Bruce Ho – the owner of Glorious Fast Food – told HKFP in Cantonese on Thursday.

Ho said that, in mid-August, people who claimed to be representatives from his building’s owners’ corporation asked him to remove the graffiti, claiming it “may violate” the national security law.

Graffiti of Glorious Fast Food was removed
The removed graffiti. Photo: Glorious Fast Food Facebook.

Later than month, personnel from the Central And Western District Office also visited the eatery. Ho said he was told that “someone said the graffiti on the wall reminded them of the social incident… In order to make sure that we would not be suspected of violating the national security law, [the personnel] asked us to sign an agreement to remove it and the Home Affairs Department would pay for it.”

Ho said the visitors added that” if you do not agree with it. You have to bear the legal responsibility in the future.”

‘No other meaning’

The restaurateur told HKFP that the graffiti was comprised of two parts, separately painted by two foreigners at least a decade ago. One of them was an artist.

Construction workers are commonly customers at the restaurant, said Ho: “There is actually no other meaning.”

Ho said he tried to ask the government officials what the legal responsibilities would be, but they could not answer. Two of his colleagues, who had worked for Ho for a long time, were afraid of potential closure and recommended he comply, he added.

“I respect them very much. We all have a strong sense of belonging at this place. In order to keep the restaurant, we compromise.”

Owner’s consent

In response to HKFP, the Home Affairs Department wrote in Chinese that the “Central and Western District Office has – from time to time – received views from the public that some graffiti in the district reminds them of black violence or Hong Kong independence.”

“Therefore, when the office discovered that graffiti on private premises may give rise to such associations, the office will remind the relevant property owners, owners’ corporations or shop tenants, etc… so that they can consider the need to dispose of the graffiti on their own.”

central government offices
Central Government Offices. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The office said that they found there was graffiti on Glorious Fast Food’s wall and door and sent reminders. The department arranged for a contractor to assist the owner in removing the artwork after receiving written consent from the owner, as well as the person-in-charge of the owners’ corporations.

New graffiti

On Thursday night, new graffiti appeared at the site involving a waitress character holding dishes. This time, there was no helmet.

The new graffiti appeared.
The new graffiti appeared. Photo: Bruce Ho, the owner of Glorious Fast Food.

Ho believed the graffiti was painted by the same artist as the old graffiti, as it was of a similar style: “I am surprised by it… Maybe it is portraying the lady staffer at my restaurant,” he told HKFP on Friday.

“Of course I am very happy with it. I am glad that – apart from the new artworks – I am also flattered that the artist is so kind. He added that he would later send messages to thank her.

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Mandy Cheng is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. Previously, she worked at Ming Pao, focusing on investigative and feature reporting. She also contributed to Cable TV and others.