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  • Jun 15, 2021

Hong Kong Art Space Raided Twice by Authorities

Hong Kong police officers at Parallel Space on June 13. Image via Local Youth Will’s Facebook.

On June 13, uniformed police officers showed up at Parallel Space in Sham Shui Po, claiming they had received a public complaint over the exhibiting of allegedly “seditious” content, which is a criminal offense under the National Security Law. The event had opened on June 9 to mark the two-year anniversary of the first mass demonstration in Hong Kong’s 2019–20 protests. According to a Facebook post by organizer Local Youth Will, the police on scene questioned Lo Ziwai, the youth group convener in charge of the event. Local Youth Will told ArtAsiaPacific in an Instagram message on June 15 that it remains unclear if the police will take further action.

Parallel Space had been inspected by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) mere days before, on June 10. Officials arrived unannounced at around 5.30 pm, accusing the venue of operating without the requisite license under the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance. The officials photographed all of the items on view and also took a statement from Lo.

The fundraising event《「走 • 過」一 七百三十日的六月九日》features works for sale and is arranged into three thematic sections: “historical heritage,” “continuing hope,” and “collective action.” It also serves as the site for a participatory project that calls on visitors to donate quotidian objects, along with notes explaining their significance, in exchange for someone else’s offering as a means of “shar[ing] past and present feelings and thoughts” and inspiring “fellow travelers.” The booking form for appointments at Parallel Space alludes to the pro-democracy movement as well as the ensuing crackdown: “We documented the fight for freedom in our city . . . Regardless of the sweeping changes, many of us still refuse to forget what we have gone through.”

Officials from the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department visited Parallel Space on June 10. Image via Local Youth Will’s Facebook.

In their message to AAP, Local Youth Will described the incident with police as “an act of white terrorism to clamp down on an already suppressed civil society, and to curtail the limited freedom and space of expression.” The spokesperson said the group’s members were “psychologically prepared” for political suppression and asserted that the event will continue at Parallel Space until June 21 as planned. “We are not afraid of the regime’s oppression [. . .] We hope to lead by example and let our fellow travelers know they are not alone. We can still overcome fear through our actions, regain civilian power, and reconnect with each other to expand our civil society.”

While no art events have yet been shut down explicitly due to suspected violations of the National Security Law, several local art spaces have been inspected by the FEHD over alleged license infractions. On June 2, the FEHD temporarily closed the June 4th Museum, run by the non-governmental Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and dedicated to preserving the memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing. The FEHD cited a complaint it had apparently received over the space’s suspected lack of a public entertainment license.

The June 2 FEHD probe and the police inspection of Parallel Space bookended several weeks of tension as boosted numbers of police were deployed to prevent public commemorations of the Tiananmen Square incident as well as Hong Kong’s June 9 and June 12 mass demonstrations, the latter of which marked the first violent clashes between protestors and police.

Ophelia Lai is ArtAsiaPacific’s associate editor. Additional reporting by assistant editor Pamela Wong.

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