Artists and cultural workers in Hong Kong denounced China’s new national security law.

Benjamin Sutton
May 28, 2020 4:26PM, via ArtAsiaPacific

Pro-democracy demonstrators protesting new national security measures being imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong. Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images.

More than 1,600 artists and cultural workers in Hong Kong and beyond have signed a petition opposing new national security measures Beijing is currently developing (and which were approved by its legislature today) that many fear will severely curtail civil liberties and enable rampant state surveillance in the semi-autonomous city. The signatories of the petition, which was first reported on by ArtAsiaPacific, are voicing “shock, worry, and anger” at the Chinese legislature’s imposition of the new laws on Hong Kong.

The move by Chinese authorities to tighten their control over Hong Kong—which has thrived under the “one country, two systems” principle that affords its residents greater freedoms than many residents of mainland China—comes after an extradition law proposed last year set off months of mass protests that continued until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The artists and arts workers’ petition states, in part:

According to Article 27 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication. However, the proposed national security law will put arts and cultural workers at risk of violating prohibitions and create a climate of fear and self-censorship that harms artistic expression, free speech, cultural exchange, and even personal security. The consequent damage to the image of Hong Kong as a cultural metropolis and to the economy will be incalculable.

The national security law’s impact is already being felt. Mass protests resumed in Hong Kong on Sunday in opposition to the move by China’s national legislature. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the State Department no longer considers Hong Kong to have significant autonomy—potentially opening the door for President Donald Trump’s administration to end its trade agreements with the semi-autonomous city, which has long been an economic powerhouse in the region.

The city has also grown into one of the world’s leading contemporary art hubs, with a concentration of galleries, auction houses, and collectors that rivals New York and London. The annual Art Basel in Hong Kong mega-fair (whose most recent edition took place exclusively online due to the pandemic), and the programming that occurs throughout the city concurrently, constitute one of the biggest events on the global art market calendar.

Benjamin Sutton