Skip to content Skip to navigation

On Art of the Occupy Movement

January 28, 2015

Before Occupy, I wouldn’t have known just how creative this city is. There wasn’t a true public space where people could create and share. But Occupy became that space: it connected people of different classes and professional backgrounds—to create in a way Hong Kong people had never been able to. In sum, Occupy was a massive space for Hong Kong to envision itself.

Umbrella man, Admiralty, October 10, 2014.

The art that emerged was spontaneous and fleeting: Post-it notes on walls and chalk on the sidewalk. As the movement changed, it was like a garden entering different seasons. There were the yellow ribbons and then, after the tear gas, the explosion of images of the umbrella, still later, the Lion Rock, and Xi Jinping holding an umbrella.

The creative use of language in signs was everywhere. I remember standing and looking at a wall outside the Admiralty MTR exit. There were posters mocking C.Y. Leung and other local politicians. Young professionals who seemed to be on their way home from work would stop and photograph them and giggle and guffaw at the humor. I had the sense that this was happening all the time during the protest—that people of every imaginable background, even those not directly taking part in the protest, were consuming the outflow of art and language play.

Arrow above characters for “Feel free to step on” points to picture of
HK Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, Admiralty, September 29, 2014.

It was also a time for experimenting in creative recycling and conservation. For example, umbrellas used on September 28, the night of the initial confrontation between protesters and police, were later repurposed, being torn apart and sewn together to form a canopy over the protest site. You saw a lot of that kind of thing.

Of course, an important part of the art of the movement was that the space was free and open. Everything in Hong Kong comes with a price. Art is for the shop and the gallery—something you don’t just pay for, but pay a fortune for. But at Occupy, the space for art was open, free, and welcoming. You were encouraged to be involved and experiment. 

© All Rights Reserved. For permission to reprint articles, please send requests to:

Return to CRF 2014, No. 2 Issue Page
Hong Kong related resources

2019 Anti-Extradition Protests

2014 Occupy Movement


Explore Topics

709 Crackdown Access to Information Access to Justice Administrative Detention All about law Arbitrary Detention
Asset Transparency Bilateral Dialogue Black Jail Book Review Business And Human Rights Censorship
Charter 08 Children Chinese Law Circumvention technology Citizen Activism Citizen Journalists
Citizen Participation Civil Society Commentary Communist Party Of China Constitution Consumer Safety
Contending views Corruption Counterterrorism Courageous Voices Cultural Revolution Culture Matters
Current affairs Cyber Security Daily Challenges Democratic And Political Reform Demolition And Relocation  Dissidents
Education Elections Enforced Disappearance Environment Ethnic Minorities EU-China
Family Planning Farmers Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression Freedom of Press Freedom of Religion
Government Accountability Government regulation Government transparency Hong Kong House Arrest HRIC Translation
Hukou Human Rights Council Human rights developments Illegal Search And Detention Inciting Subversion Of State Power Information Control 
Information technology Information, Communications, Technology (ICT) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Human Rights International perspective International Relations
Internet Internet Governance JIansanjiang lawyers' rights defense Judicial Reform June Fourth Kidnapping
Labor Camps Labor Rights Land, Property, Housing Lawyer's rights Lawyers Legal System
Letters from the Mainland Major Event (Environment, Food Safety, Accident, etc.) Mao Zedong Microblogs (Weibo) National People's Congress (NPC) New Citizens Movement
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Olympics One country, two systems Online Activism Open Government Information Personal stories
Police Brutality Political commentary Political Prisoner Politics Prisoner Of Conscience Probing history
Propaganda Protests And Petitions Public Appeal Public Security Racial Discrimination Reeducation-Through-Labor
Rights Defenders Rights Defense Rule Of Law Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Special Topic State compensation
State Secrets State Security Subversion Of State Power Surveillance Technology Thoughts/Theories
Tiananmen Mothers Tibet Torture Typical cases United Nations US-China 
Uyghurs, Uighurs Vulnerable Groups Women Youth Youth Perspective