Vanishing Points: Changing Images of Protest in Hong Kong

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Mai Corlin Frederiksen


Until recently: Chinese University of Hong Kong


DKK 1,180,078




Reintegration Fellowships


The ongoing protest movement in Hong Kong was remarkably visual, with hundreds of protest wall complexes across the territory and massive amounts of visual material on digital platforms. The explicit use of the image as part of the protest movement in Hong Kong, has (once again) shown us just how central the image is to the formation of political imaginaries- thus making it all the more important to analyse these images along with what happens when the conditions to produce these images are severely constrained. Thus, this project enquires into the shifting visual politics of the Hong Kong protests by analysing the changing images of the protest movement along with the shift in political space for protest with the introduction of the new national security legislation (NSL) June 30th 2020.


The NSL effectively criminalised the movement and its images. As a consequence, the visual presence of the movement in the territory was made to vanish by movement participants. While political analysts struggled to understand the consequences of this legislation, the disappearance of protest images gave the answer up-front: the Hong Kong that was, had disappeared in a flash. Or at least, that was what the protesters would like for us to see. The circumstances inflicted by the NSL for a moment crystalized how censorship and self-censorship unfold in tandem and thus provide a unique opportunity to study a region in transition. Because what is actually going on? Is Hong Kong disappearing? What are the consequences - for the movement and its images - of this new legislation?


I propose a longitudinal study for the analysis of the images of the protest movement from it began in May 2019 and until June 2021, a year after the introduction of the NSL. In the analysis of the images of the protest movement, I include physical images and visual material hung on protest walls and I include digital images that are shared, reshared and deleted on SoME platforms and messaging services. I approach the "image" in its broadest sense, that is, I research the image as "image events." Image events refer to the image as a process, including the way images are made, circulated, recirculated and responding to situations taking place on the public arena. The image events thus connect the digital and physical realms into a circuit for the production of visual protest material.

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