Hong Kong officials remove billboard with hidden references to detained, pro-democracy protesters

A digital billboard in Hong Kong that apparently included secret references to dissidents has been removed. The piece by US artist Patrick Amadon, called “No Rioters”, had been displayed on the side of a convenience store in the central part of the city.

The BBC reported that Amadon had told the outlet that he had created the piece in “solidarity” with the protesters there. The protests that ignited in 2019 were in response to an extradition bill that would have sent suspected criminals in Hong Kong to the mainland of China, subjecting them to unfair trials and arbitrary detention.

The video on the billboard lasted 24 seconds, which featured a surveillance camera panning. The artwork included the names of jailed pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Amadon noted on Friday that the artwork’s takedown “completed” its overall political message about the stifling of civil freedoms in the city, per the BBC.

Amadon said: "A few years ago, this art would have been a free and legal expression. For the government to take it down now objectively demonstrates how Hong Kong has changed and completes the art work.”

The Hong Kong authorities have yet to make a comment on the artwork and why it was removed from public view. However, there have been reports that the artwork was taken down at the request of the Sogo department store.

The suggestion that the piece was removed at the behest of the department store was supported by Francesca Boffetti, from the Art Innovation Gallery, who reiterated that the large billboard was taken down after store owners made the call.

But there are those who believe the takedown of the display is just the latest in a long string of censorship efforts in Hong Kong. On Thursday, Amadon tweeted that his artwork had been “taken down today at the request of the government.”

Amadon followed this up with another tweet: “According to a pro-Beijing outlet, I am ‘pro-rioters’. This is correct.”

Amadon’s artwork provides a brief digital flash that reveals the names of notable pro-democracy activists who have been detained, including legal scholar Benny Tai, journalist Gwyneth Ho, and student leader Joshua Wong.

The name of this group of protesters has been referred to as the Hong Kong 47 group, who are currently on trial for “subversion” under a controversial national security law, which some have called the “end of Hong Kong.”

Image: Title: amadon art