March of memes hogs some of the spotlight

Top News | Stella Wong 9 Dec 2019

About 100 protesters wearing heads of animals stood out yesterday as they brought internet memes to life.

While there are no obvious leaders for the pro-democracy movement, a few animal cartoon figures have surged in popularity.

One of them is Pepe the Frog, which used to be a favorite among far-right activists in the West but has no such connotation in Hong Kong.

Another is a locally born pig and a Shiba Inu dog, which often appears on the Lihkg discussion forum.

Protesters wore huge heads of the cartoon characters made from fiberglass in a stunt masterminded by former government adviser Simon Lau Sai-leung, founder of online radio station Sing Jai.

"There is a story of Hong Kong people's suffering behind every helmet," Lau told Agence France-Presse, adding 117 masks had been made in the last 10 days.

"But in the face of police brutality and tyranny, we want Hong Kong people to carry on with humor, confidence and positive thinking."

Rony Wong, a surveyor in his 30s, was wearing a Pepe mask with a nurse's hat and said he chose it because he wanted to thank medical professionals who have been helping those wounded in the protests, often in underground clinics.

Sirius Tam, a 21-year-old university student, was wearing a Pepe mask with a bag of "Life Bread" sticking out of the mouth.

The local bakery brand has become a symbol for protesters after a police officer was filmed boasting that he and his colleagues could go and eat hotpot across the border in Shenzhen while protesters would have to make do with bread.

They were among huge crowds who turned up in the rally yesterday, many peaceful protesters who marched despite violent clashes over the past few months.

They called for an independent commission of inquiry to probe into police violence.

A 48-year-old man, Kwok, joined the protest with his wife and three daughters aged 10, 14 and 18.

Kwok said he was not worried about potential clashes and expected lots of people would attend the march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front.

"I hope my children can practice their civic awareness [while] they are young," he said. Kwok criticized police who are "not [acting like] humans." He added: "If someone breaks the law, they can arrest them, or even charge them, but not beat them, right?"

Apart from families, elderly people marched, including a 70-year-old retiree surnamed Man, who said he has been in nearly all large-scale marches since June.

"Many young people have contributed so much. We, the elderly, should also come out to show our support," he said. Man said he felt heartbroken and could not sleep after watching scenes of police violence on television.

"I have lived here for 70 years and I have never seen police being that violent."

A 22-year-old Polytechnic University student urged the government to respond to their five demands. She said one of the most heartbreaking scenes was her university being seized by police.

"It was hard to imagine how hopeless the people were inside campus," she said.

Some of her friends had been arrested.

"I don't have the courage to stand on the frontline, so I will do as much as I can to join all rallies that are relatively peaceful," she said.

A 27-year-old Central office worker surnamed Chan, who has been joining protests since June, waved a black flag stating: "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times."

He said: "Under the cameras of reporters, we can all see how police have used excessive force.

"The results of district council election tell the government that we cannot forget the sacrifice of frontline protesters."

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