Ai Weiwei

Graffiti a thought-provoking art form which is widely respected

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2011, 12:00am


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While people deplore the arrest of Ai Weiwei, many mainlanders cannot speak out publicly against it.

Hong Kong's freedom of speech is deteriorating but our citizens can still express their support for the artist. Among all the voices, the graffiti designed by Chin Tangerine, the young female artist, speaks the loudest.

Sadly, we have Agnes Tam ('Graffiti protest inappropriate', April 27) suggesting that such graffiti should not be allowed in our city.

Should we curse or praise Chin? I regard her as a brave young painter. Ms Tam suggested that, instead of painting graffiti, those who support Ai might instead conduct marches or send a letter to the liaison office of the central government [in Sheung Wan].

However, the truth is that we lack official channels through which we can express our opinion. I think that, very often, letters and petitions sent to government offices are reduced to ashes.

Thanks to the self-censorship of the Hong Kong media, protests do not attract a great deal of attention. Even in the case of graffiti, if it is not taken up as a case to be investigated by one of the regional crime units of the Hong Kong police, the mainstream media will ignore it.

The overreaction of the police force has resulted in a controversy over the graffiti and this has meant that Ai's case is getting the attention it deserves in the public realm.

Your correspondent has maintained that nothing could be gained through such a rebellious tactic.

Yet Ai's mother has thanked Chin for drawing attention to her son's case.

Graffiti is accepted by well-known media outlets such as CNN and The Times.

Ms Tam believes that graffiti in Hong Kong will leave a bad impression with tourists. Does it leave a good impression of a metropolis if it appears that all of its citizens are obedient?

Surely individual diversity and tolerance represent the real essence of a city.

Like many other kinds of art, graffiti offers viewers the right to draw their own conclusions. It often provokes deeper thought and can be educational.

The work of British graffiti artist Banksy is held in very high regard and his work is protected by local authorities in many cities.

Seldom do we praise a government department for embracing a controversial issue. However, in 2010, the Home Affairs Bureau funded graffiti programmes in Youth Square, Chai Wan.

Erik Chan, Quarry Bay