The physical exhibition is open-sourced and available for anyone to present. Contact us if you are interested.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to mainland China in 1997. Since then, Hong Kong has been governed by the constitutional principle of “One Country, Two Systems”. Under this principle, Hong Kong continued to have its own governmental systems and legal, economic and financial affairs, including trade relations with other countries, all of which are independent from those of mainland China. However, the interpretation of this principle has occasionally caused tensions to erupt.
In the summer of 2019, 22 years after the handover, a tremendous political movement emerged to protest an extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. Dissenting voices claimed this would risk exposing citizens to unfair trials and treatment, further eroding political freedoms in Hong Kong. Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers (as they now refer to themselves) took to the streets, and weeks of protests and civil disobedience followed, which helped to bring the movement to global attention. While the controversial bill was withdrawn in September 2019, the movement doesn’t stop but continues with a broader set of demands, including a full inquiry into alleged police brutality.
Digital technology plays a key role in the whole movement, and the use of technology is creative, innovative and pervasive. Digital community functions range from front-line support and crowdsourcing campaigns to protest art, social media (fact-checking and reporting), online petitions, political education, and so on. Protesters use multiple platforms including live-streaming, forums and apps, e-commerce, websites, music, and whatever else seems appropriate in the moment, a perfect expression of the “Be Water” philosophy. The protest movement is leaderless, and this decentralization results in massive online and organic tactics using platforms like LIHKG – a local, lo-fi version of Reddit where users can communicate and vote on posts – or AirDrop to share campaign messages. The protests have unleashed a wave of digital activism in which everything is new and creative.
Hong Kongers have set new standards of digital activism, the lessons of which must be shared with other groups worldwide. “Be Water” is their guiding philosophy, just as in the Chinese classical text “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu, the highest good is like water. This project documents the past and present, credits the Hong Kong protestors, and brings Hong Kongers to the center of art, technology and society and provokes a much-needed dialogue about how digital culture shapes our practise of civic responsibility now and in the future.