Colorful epithets turn into protester firepower

Local | 24 Jun 2019 2:22 pm

Viral artwork pummelling city leaders, clever word plays and Cantonese cursing that would make a sailor blush – Hong Kongers have displayed a characteristically riotous embrace of satire during anti-government protests.

Outside the Legislative Council, a shrine has sprung up for the beleaguered pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam. A black banner underneath reads: "Suspend your mother.''

The first word is a reference to protester demands that the extradition bill be permanently taken off the table, not just suspended as the government has now done. But the last two words reference a favourite local insult: "Fxxx your mother.''

After police were filmed shouting "Reporter, your mother!" to journalists – questioning their credentials – during clashes with protesters on June 12, demonstrators seized on the phrase, immortalising it in WhatsApp stickers, banners and printing it on t-shirts.

An even more irreverent rallying cry protesters have adopted with relish – and plastered on the outside walls of the legislature – is the phrase "freedom hai.''

The word "hai" is arguably the rudest of what is dubbed "the five great Cantonese profanities" and refers to female genitalia. Police were also filmed yelling an insult at demonstrators that sounded like "freedom hai,'' and demonstrators reclaimed the insult, adopting it with pride.

Protester Kit-ying, 25, said the slogan was a "refusal to be oppressed.''

"Especially as a woman, if you call us that, we will turn it into our slogan and transform it from its passive role into an active one," she told AFP.

Not all the puns are derisive.

One of the most popular chants has been "fan sung jung" which literally translates to "against being sent to China.''

But "sung jung" is also a homophone for seeing off a dead relative at a funeral, encapsulating fears that the extradition law will be the death of the city.

Many of the memes have gone viral via the website LIHKG – a sort of Cantonese Reddit – where users can vote on designs and protest plans.

There you can find cartoons of Lam showing her as the character Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, doggedly clutching the "One Ring", or crying crocodile tears over injured protesters.

The best go viral on chat groups, or are simply pinged to strangers' phones as they walk down the street by others using Bluetooth and Apple's Airdrop function.

Many popular drawings have been penned by Australia-based Chinese dissident

artist Badiucao, who recently unveiled his face for the first time after he said his family on the mainland received threats.

One popular cartoon is based on an AFP photograph of a lone protester in a yellow poncho getting hit by either pepper spray or water from police.

"It's a metaphor for Hong Kong as a city against the threat from the whole nation of mainland China... it's a photo of a modern David versus Goliath," Badiucao told AFP.-Graphics: Courtesy Badiucao.



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