“This law will affect our daily life: What you post on social media, what you say to your friends. It’s not only about being an artist. It’s about basic human rights,” said Wong, who was protesting alongside art dealers, critics, and curators. She estimated more than 150 artists had joined her on the streets in recent weeks, including young art students who braved police violence, tear gas, and risks of arrest. “They were afraid that even if they just stand there, the police would catch them,” Wong said. She added that the union paired the students with more established artists who led sketching workshops outside the city government headquarters.
“After the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, we thought making art wasn’t useful, but we won’t say that again,” said mixed-media artist Tang Kwok-hin, who played the drums while marching with other artists on Monday. “We’ve picked up our role. If this law is approved, then Hong Kong and China will be just the same.”
Unlike China, Hong Kong has long enjoyed freedom of speech, with artists encountering relatively little censorship aside from regulations on nudity and indecency. “With this extradition law, however, the firewall protecting our freedom of expression is effectively removed and everybody falls into self-censorship,” said Henry Au-Yeung, the founder and director of Grotto Fine Art, a gallery in the Central neighborhood that focuses on showing Hong Kong artists. “One would worry if their art will be deemed politically charged or in violation of mainland laws.”