Since June of last year, when the government proposed the Extradition Bill, which is what kicked this whole thing off, Hong Kongers have been protesting against what they see as the erosion of their civil and human rights. Millions of people peacefully took to the streets week after week, only to be met with violent suppression by the HK police. Of course after the initial clashes, things escalated over time and turned into something quite different, more like pitched battles between front line protestors and riot cops. This went on for months, all coming to a head when protestors took over the campus of the Polytechnic University and the police essentially laid siege to the campus.
Then Covid-19 happened and things cooled down for a bit. But the grievances were still there, and the government refused to take any responsibility for the situation – they refused to have an independent inquiry into police brutality complaints, they continued to pursue ‘rioting’ charges against protestors which carry long jail sentences. They essentially made no concessions at all. This brings us to the recent developments, which have to do with two new laws which are in the process of being passed. One is the National Anthem Bill, which criminalizes any disrespect to China’s National Anthem, and the other is called the National Security Law. The Chinese government decided that since the HK government couldn’t get a National Security Law passed on their own, China would step in and do it for them. Many see this as a breach of the “one country, two systems” policy that’s been in place ever since the British handover to China. The NSL will give sweeping powers to the government and encompasses activity they deem secessionist and subversive, as well as foreign interference. The broad language leaves people with concerns about how this may be applied, and what will be considered subversive. Will companies who are critical of the Chinese government face penalties? Will we for writing this? It’s all left intentionally vague and can include whatever the government decides, which is why people here are so worried. We recently made a T-shirt with a burning cop car to raise money for charities here and in the US. Will that be illegal? If so where does that leave us as a brand? With Covid basically gone from HK, one crisis may have ended, but the other on is still very much ongoing. With these new laws coming into effect, I expect we’ll see more protests, more crack downs, and more economic pain. To be honest, we are still trying to sort out how and what is going to happen after these events. However, we will continue to use our platform and voice to support the people and community.
It’s been a tough year here, but the HK people are super resilient and it’s been amazing to see so many stand up for their rights, even when the consequences of doing so are so dire. It was definitely hard to get motivated in the beginning with all of the changes, but during tough times, a lot of the local artists and communities still find ways to be creative. Seeing all that has brought a lot of new ideas and we are very excited to bring those ideas into reality.