On June 30th, 2020, the people of Hong Kong mourned the loss of their country’s freedom under the newly passed Hong Kong National Security Law. This piece of legislation banned any instance of “secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces”. While it may not sound problematic as any nation would want national security, Hong Kong had existed as a separate and free entity from the People’s Republic of China which has a long and troubled history of silencing and criminalizing any who questions the leadership of the government.
As a consequence, many trivial offenses can lead to individuals being a target of several punishments like involuntary surveillance and wire-tapping in order to ensure they remain docile and subservient to the government. Unfortunately, this also meant the death of free speech and artistic, individualistic expression within contemporary society unless it served to benefit the People’s Republic of China.
Just recently, a Hong Kong news art institution known as “M+” removed an oil painting that satirical depicted a famous photograph from the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in which an estimated several thousand had died due to the oppression of China’s government and military. As a response, the organization stated it was doing so in order to practice “full compliance with relevant laws and regulations”, leaving space only for Pro-Chinese art like depictions of former president Mao Zedong. It is important to note that the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre is an extremely dangerous topic to publicly speak about in China, much less create an original depiction of one of many scenes from the Massacre as the Chinese government frequently targets those who mention the existence of the Massacre and actively downplay the severity of the event.
The removal of this painting is more than a show of an abusive police state but also the silent weeping and acknowledgment that the freedom that the Hong Kong people once had is entering its final stages as the totalitarian beliefs of the People’s Republic of China are quickly claiming dominance over the once-free state.