Kacey Wong is all about visual art: practically, theoretically, and as an activist. For the Hongkonger born in 1970, this has had one dominant implication for the last decade: how does it feel to live in an uncertain home? How does one aestheticize resistance, fear, and hope? In his Diary, he invites us into this on-going process.
Good morning dear Kacey,
Today is the Umbrella Movement’s anniversary day. So, we want to know what you did on this day six years ago and what the pro-democratic movement means to you today.
See & talk to you later!
Heading to Pacific Place now, will also go to where I conducted a workshop six years ago during the Umbrella Movement in Central
Looking forward to see the footage
The 28th of September is the sixth anniversary of what is called the Umbrella MovementThe umbrella protests took place in Hong Kong from September to mid-December 2014. The protests were triggered by a decision of the Chinese People’s Congress to select the candidates for the Hong Kong administrative chief post through a preliminary selection process. The movement got its name because the protesters used umbrellas to protect themselves from the tear gas used by the police.. In 2014, tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets to demonstrate for free elections and against the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Hong Kong. The anger of the demonstrators was sparked, among other things, by the Chinese regime’s stipulation that only pre-approved candidates would be admitted to the 2017 elections. Because security forces used tear gas to attack demonstrators, the protesters protected themselves with umbrellas – which gave the movement its name.
To commemorate it, Kacey visits the Pacific Place, a luxury mall in downtown Hong Kong that has been a symbolic location and place of refuge for protesters over the past years. He observes a strong police presence and a few protesters – and is disturbed by a constantly penetrating announcement.
I am still here, caught all the action
We just heard that there are a lot of police at the pacific mall
I hid in a restaurant right in the middle of the action, an untouchable consumer that the security and the police will protect, crazy
“After all the policemen left and only a handful of protesters stayed, pretending to be shoppers, I took my new 360-Camera and walked into the middle of the shopping centre and created an invisible umbrella. Can you see it? Can you still see it? Stay true to yourself. Don’t forget your calling. We will get there one day.”
Just heard that the security guards were observing you.
How dangerous is that for you?
It’s ok I am not young so they assume I am not a threat
In today’s Hong Kong being young is a crime
All the cops are gone now. I just finished my two beers. I will go to my umbrella location of six years ago
Glad, that nothing happened to you
“Today is the Umbrella Movement’s anniversary. Six years ago, I was sitting at this exact location doing an art project called “Art studies station”. I felt that a lot of protesters voices were not heard, so I created this project. Actually, it’s a counselling service in disguise: to let the protesters speak, but also to give me a chance to listen.”
In today’s Hong Kong being young is a crime.
And it’s us again ? Good Morning!
Today we want to know: What can’t you do anymore that you could before the first of July 2020?
Excited for today, talk to you later ?
Today I will go to the court to support those who got arrested. There are more than 100 protesters going through the court system today, Joshua Wong is one of them. I will go to the court as a witness, and if there are too many people, then I will go to another court in another district.
Court hopping instead of bar hopping, can you believe that? I think that action itself already answered your question.
Slight change of plan, I will go to this guy’s sentencing hearing for the charge of assaulting the police instead, I think I will have a greater chance of getting in
Thanks for letting us know
The National Security Law (NSL)The National Security Law went into effect in Hong Kong on the 30th of June 2020. It is intended to “prevent, stop and punish” everything that the Chinese government believes could threaten national security. Due to the vaguely worded text of the law, it has caused great uncertainty among the population since its implementation., which came into effect at the end of June 2020, allows the authorities in Hong Kong to arrest people on flimsy pretexts and to hold them in custody. Kacey wants to express his solidarity with a 28-year-old former government official who has been accused of assaulting a police officer and whose hearing takes place today.
The man who was charged for assaulting the police miraculously was able to post bail. I was able to watch him to walk out of the court house after already 5 days in jail. The 28 years old man looks very young, family and friends opened their umbrellas to protect his ID as he walked out. I yelled “Add Oil, Support You!” when he came out. Very sad, but if I am him, I would want someone I don’t know to come support me.
“Add oil” is an expression that is common in Hong Kong English and has its origin in the Cantonese phrase Gayau (or Jiayou; Chinese: 加油). It can be translated as “Keep it up.”
“There are more than one hundred protest-related court-cases in Hong Kong today. Amazing. I saw on the news a young man was being charged for assaulting the police. I know he might be framed. I saw so many videos on YouTube and livefeed showing how the police framed the protesters. So I decided to go to the courthouse to show my support. Many people were expecting the young man to be sentenced today, but instead he got bailed. Maybe the judge found the case too weak. As the young man walked out the courthouse, our eyes met. He was wearing a facemask, he looked very pale and weak, his eyes disoriented. Going through the law is a disorienting process. The government tries to punish the protesters through executive detention. This young man was in custody already for five days. So, as he walked out of the courthouse I yelled, “Add oil! Support you!”. I felt very sad afterwards. Because I know this is just the beginning of a war for his personal freedom. Good luck to him.”
It’s so cool that you went there for us
Who is the guy?
He’s 28 years old, our eyes caught each other as he walked out, his face was so pale and he was so skinny and lost, his friends immediately opened umbrellas to protect him, very very sad.
He looked like a teenager to me
An he was in jail for five days?
He was detained by the police for five days, yes.
What do you know about the official charge?
This guy used to work for the government
He was found guilty of assaulting a cop*
Sentenced to two months!!*
Thank you for this info
That’s a twist
According to consistent media reports, the man is Feng Yaohui, a former government official. He is accused of assaulting a police officer last December. On the 30th of September, a court in the Hong Kong district of Kowloon sentenced Yaohui to two months in prison. The defence has appealed the sentence – the accused has been released on bail under strict conditions pending the appeal process. Yaohui no longer works as a government employee.
Sometimes I am nervous, the other day at the Pacific Place I noticed my legs were slightly trembling uncontrollably
Going to accordion lesson now
We can only imagine
We can feel your anger and grief just by the videos and voice messages you are sending us
Thank you so much
* This material was originally sent on the 22nd of October.
Hello Kacey, hope you are doing well! What was the first thing you thought about when you woke up today?
But as today is also the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, we have some other questions that you can keep in mind: What are your feelings towards China and the Chinese regime? How scared are you of violence today? And how does it feel to be prevented from protesting?
Kacey decides to ride his BMX bike to gather impressions of the demonstrations.
I have been checked by the police four times already, amazing
Are they checking your ID?
Or asking where you want to go?
Nice outfit, though!
What does it say on the t-shirt?
“You acting like this will not make me scared.”
It was a quote from a policeman trying to frighten the press for pointing the camera at him. The protesters turned it around against the police.
They just checked my ID for the fifth time now.
Thanks for the info!
Is it likely that they also arrest you for a couple of hours?
Or not really?
We’re just wondering how dangerous it is for you
Home safely. During the last search the policeman accused me for wearing the t-shirt. I got home, but I was recorded, I think.
I think 70 people got arrested, I am a miracle.
Good that you went home
Did they register you for wearing the shirt?
Did they write a report about it?
Yes anyone wearing black was labelled as terrorists almost
At one point I was surrounded by 20 cops near the National Security Bureau
And you could escape?
Yes because they found that I had been searched three times already haha
I got to go to a mid autumn festival family dinner gathering now
Okay get some rest and enjoy your family time
We’re just watching you getting checked by the police
And all on tape
I couldn’t tape the fifth time I got searched today, ran out of battery, sorry
Is there a reason why the cops are all wearing sun glasses?
They don’t want to be identified so they hide their identity. Also there were incidents long ago of the the protesters using laser to shoot at their eyes. But now mostly they are afraid of ID leak.
Street searching lasts usually less than 15 minutes, if they see anything suspicious or they don’t like you, they will try to falsely accuse you, ie, they forced me to unlock your phone to check if the phone belongs to me, but they didn’t look into the content inside. The whole process I was holding the phone and didn’t let them see the password, etc. so all the security measures your side planned are good, but you must assume there is a possibility the phone might fall into the wrong hands one day.
If I hadn’t opened the lock to prove the phone is mine they might have taken me to the station and charged me for the possession of other people’s property, I will not give them this chance, this happened to some protesters before. One policeman threatened me because of my T-shirt. He knows he cannot say anything, but he was too stupid and couldn’t help it. If things go bad just say the two magic sentences “Sir, I am fully cooperating with you now and your action is scaring me, I am very scared right now.” Then they will know immediately that you know how to play the law game, I only had to use this once today.
That is scary, glad you could escape the situation without further consequences
Maybe you should still change the password when you are home. They might have filmed it or something, just to be 100 % sure
And do you think that they will observe you now? Now that they registered your name and everything
And did the cops say anything because you were filming the whole process? Were they asking questions about your equipment? We saw that one cop asked you to turn off the camera
I told them I got a new camera and want to test it out and since today is a holiday, I am trying to ride my bike with friends which is normal. One cop thought I was a journalist, i think they think I am just another stupid harmless sucker fighting the system with that t-shirt. I told one of the cops I am actually 50 years old and can give birth to him, his manner changed suddenly. That t-shirt is a symbol of mocking them, most don’t care, so many names were registered, as long as I am not wanted that’s ok. I will not be monitored, just another protest day in HK, I won’t worry too much. It’s my tactics to let them fall into my net, so I can film all their gears and manner, a good catch for one day. A lot of people have two phones and cameras in Hong Kong, it’s the norm.
Ok, glad to hear you’re safe
Need to sleep now, good night. What an adventure.
Thank you so much, Kacey
…aaaand good morning ? To not overburden you with work on this holiday we are going to hold back on our other questions and will just ask you our question of the day. So, since a lot of people spend time with their families today, we want to know: What does your family think about politics? Do you quarrel about the future of HK?
We hope you’ll have a good start in the day, talk to you later ?
“I’m glad my wife supports my artistic activism. I know a lot of couples don’t have that kind of support at home. Political polarization has penetrated every aspect of life in Hong Kong, including living rooms and dining tables. This happened back in 2014 during the Umbrella Movement, the then chief executive Leung Chun-ying instigated all this hatred among the people. Turning husbands against their wives, parents against their own children. The Pro-Xi communist government was behind it (Reference to Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China – the Editor). My mom didn’t support my activism work. She represents the old value of her generation which only takes care of self-interest and obedience. She doesn’t understand, that it is the citizens’ duty to resist when facing injustice. She doesn’t even go to vote. So during family dinner gatherings, whenever they talk about politics, I just try to keep my mouth shut. To keep the peace. Bad politics have destroyed some of my relationship with my mom, but I’m not mad at her. I know that it is the system that is doing all the damage.”*
Bad politics partly destroyed the relationship with my mom.
The first conversation after the first of October leads to this intense voicemail about Kacey’s relationship with his mother. We will learn more about the effects his activism has on his private life in the following days. But we also have a lot of questions about how exactly he handled the events on the first of October. For example, why Kacey wrote a number on his belly, before he went out to the streets.
What is the number that you wrote on your belly before leaving the house?
The number is 64616642. The Spark Alliance’s phone number, they have lawyers who help protestors who are arrested. Ever since last year every time I go out I will write it in on my body, so in case I got stripped and beaten to the point I start to forget – I still have the number when it is my turn to call, to give me some hope
But government have stopped their banking account it is very frustrating
Wow, that’s intense
Thank you for sharing
Does the pig have a special symbolic meaning?
Yes, it is called the LIHKG Pig, it is from the LIHKG forum and they have a dog too. It emerged since 2019 and represents those protesting citizens as a self mockery. They also use this symbol to identify those Yellow Businesses, like pro democracy restaurants
Could you also explain the story behind the frog?
“The Hong Kong protesters like to use cute looking cartoon figures to spread their messages. One of the most famous figures is the pig. It is an optimistic figure that is sometimes full of emotions. It quickly became a meme in animations and spread like wildfire in Hong Kong. Another popular figure is Pepe the Frog. It was originally by the artist Matt Furie from the US back in 2005. Pepe the Frog is also an optimistic character that likes to say stuff like ‘It feels good, man’. A happy-go-lucky type of figure. But as it got popular in the US, the alt-right movement picked up on this symbol and highjacked it. So quickly, Pepe became associated with white supremacy. Without knowing much about Pepes sad kidnapping history, the Hong Kong protesters reappropriated Pepe the Frog for the Anti-Extradition-LawThe extradition law was intended to the Hong Kong authorities to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. But after the mass protests in 2014, the Hong Kong government withdrew their plans. Movement back in 2019. Of course, this created a controversy. So one of the protesters wrote to Matt Furie and asked him for answers. Matt replied: ‘This is great news! Pepe for the people!’”*
* This material was originally sent on the 3rd of October.
As the protests over China’s National DayThe People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949. Since then this date is considered a national holiday. fade away, Hong Kong gradually calms down. For Kacey, this means a return to his day job: art. Thus, he devotes himself to preparing an exhibition in which his current short film is shown. But he still finds time to tell us how it feels to work in art in such polarized times – and if there is such a thing as apolitical art.
Hi there 🙂 What are your plans for today?
The movie you showed in yesterday’s video is your movie, right?
“On the surface, my story was about the pandemic and the feeling of loneliness and helplessness and trying to get away. But deep inside, the hidden script is really about my feelings about the 2019 Anti-Extradition Law Movement. During that year, there were so many news stories about dead bodies being found on the sea, and some of the protesters were killed and shot – and their names keep popping up in my mind like a dark shadow. I can not wave it away. So I wanted to do something to commemorate these people, those protesters, who went away. I think the only way to set us free is to become them. That is to say, to continue to live in their manner, in their spirit. This way we can really become free. Not to forget them, but be like them. To resist.”*
Did you shoot it all by yourself?
I shot the beginning part then passed the selfie stick to others, it came out great
The premiere of my movie is this Saturday
I moved my fish sculpture to the venue to Causeway Bay, too
According to the owner of the gallery, there were rumors about me being part of the exhibition – among Blue Ribbon (pro-establishment) people. Maybe someone saw my video of the burning of the protestors gear during the Ghost Festival a while ago.
Pretty cool action!
Do you get reactions of some of the Blue Ribbon people?
Older or conservative people pretty much just stay out of each other’s business, like me and my mom, it’s a general phenomenon in any politically torn society
Have your friendships also changed due to quarrels over the political situation? Did you lose friends over debates about this?
“I used to be the coach of a war game team. This is the kind of sports where everybody wears camouflage and carries airsoft guns to shoot each other in the jungle. Of course, laugh about it in the graveyard, too. I’ve done this for twenty years and my team got a high record. We’ve won multiple open war game competitions in Hong Kong in the past. The team’s captain and my teammates used to be very close – we used to go through life and death situations together. So that experience bonded us. But as the situation in Hong Kong worsened politically, polarization tore us apart. When some of the members wanted to talk about pro-democracy issues in the forum, the captain tried to put a stop to it. He thought this would maintain the peace. The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei once said, ‘Everything is art, everything is politics’. That’s so true. Everything is somehow related to political issues, and of course our captain did not understand this. So, as political tension mounted in our team, members found themselves in political opposition to each other, and the captain’s order was continuously ignored. One day, my captain exploded and left without saying goodbye. I have not seen him since then, and I do not feel bad about it. Since I think we have fundamental differences in our intrinsic values – he thinks putting everyone in silent mode and making them obedient will maintain the peace. But I think he may have forgotten that confronting injustice is the real test of a man.”*
I Wanted to Do Something to Commemorate These People, Those Protesters, Who Went Away.
In 2019, hundreds of thousands of people took action in Hong Kong against a government-planned extradition lawThe extradition law was intended to the Hong Kong authorities to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. But after the mass protests in 2014, the Hong Kong government withdrew their plans.. The controversial law was designed to facilitate the extradition of criminals from Hong Kong to Mainland China. Critics warned against the political persecution of dissidents, as well as torture and ill-treatment by the Chinese regime.
The demonstrations, with more than one million participants, are among the largest mass protests in recent times. After the harsh action of security forces against demonstrators, some of the protests escalated. After the protests, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie LamCarrie Lam has been the head of government in Hong Kong since July 1, 2017. She is the first woman to hold this post after the former British crown colony of Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. suspended the law. At the end of June 2020 the Chinese leadership unilaterally implemented the even more comprehensive National Security LawThe National Security Law went into effect in Hong Kong on the 30th of June 2020. It is intended to “prevent, stop and punish” everything that the Chinese government believes could threaten national security. Due to the vaguely worded text of the law, it has caused great uncertainty among the population since its implementation., which offers extensive possibilities for criminal prosecution.
* This material was originally sent on the 6th of October.
In the last days of our conversations, Kacey goes back to his everyday life. But there are still some moments when he gives us interesting vignettes about how past and present are entangled in contemporary Hong Kong. Here are some impressions from Kacey’s Hong Kong – for example from the cemetery in his district Happy Valley, where Kacey visits a specific nameless grave.
“This is the tombstone of Yeung Ku-wan. He was one of the founders of the Furen Literary Society, which was a cover-up-group for a resisting the Qing government in 1890. He was eventually assassinated by agents sent by the Qing government. He died at the age of 39 years in 1901. What’s interesting is that he was buried here in an unmarked grave for 110 years. The British were worried that the Qing dynasty would continue assassinating everybody visiting his grave, so the tombstone remained blank, only marked by a number: 6348. The broken columns in Yeung Ku-wans tombstone symbolise that he died before realising his aspirations. Imagine one hundred years later, maybe Hong Kong is finally liberated, its glory shines again once more. But the protestors and revolutionaries are already long gone. The unsung hero of the future. Heroes with no names, no faces. But that does not matter. It is never personal, but something much bigger than ourselves. Our culture, our language, our land, our home, our memory, our Hong Kong. Be that unsung hero, be that hero of no face and no name.”*
In another moment, we engage in a conversation about a teacher who lost his license for discussing freedom of speech with his students. Kacey takes a look at the actual work sheet for us and analyses the direct effects of the National Security LawThe National Security Law went into effect in Hong Kong on the 30th of June 2020. It is intended to “prevent, stop and punish” everything that the Chinese government believes could threaten national security. Due to the vaguely worded text of the law, it has caused great uncertainty among the population since its implementation. on the education system in Hong Kong.
I also have another question. I just checked the clip, in which you tell the story of the teacher who lost his license over a worksheet. **
Thank you for explaining this, as it illustrates the influence of the National Security Law on the Education Bureau in Hong Kong. **
So I know that the teacher lost his license. But what about the 5th-grade student who gave all those answers? **
Do you know if he has problems too? Like a disciplinary proceeding or sth like that? **
The student was ok, I was amazed by that 5th grade student who answered so well, I couldn’t have if I had been that old, the teacher must have done a lot lot to prepare the students, good teacher. **
Yes, me too.
I was impressed.
Thank you! **
The chat messages have been curated by us and shortened for better readability while the context of the messages has been retained.
* This material was originally sent on the 10th of October.
** This material was originally sent on the 9th of October.