Protest art

Hong Kong artist in silent protest at chief executive’s office

Gum Cheng Yee-man opens more than 100 replies received from Leung Chun-ying's office to comments he sent the chief executive each week. It was part of an art project, Curate No More

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 4:59pm

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Artist Gum Cheng Yee-man staged a quiet, one-man protest in front of the office of the chief executive in Admiralty on Tuesday, nearly nine months after the surrounding area was cleared of Occupy Central protesters by police.

Cheng sat  at a table by the main entrance at 10.30am and proceeded to open the 100-plus letters he had received from Leung Chun-ying’s office over the past two years. The two are not pen pals. The missives were all form letters acknowledging receipt of the ones that Cheng had been sending once a week to the chief executive with his personal observations about major news events in Hong Kong.

The near-identical wording used by the office secretaries in each reply, Cheng said, reflected the “cold and inhuman” attitude of the administration despite the lip service it paid to consulting public opinion.  

“I thought it was my responsibility as a citizen to submit my views. After all, the chief executive used to say he was eager to visit different districts personally and to listen to what people wanted. I am disappointed that all the letters his office sent me are cold and inhuman, with vague promises to pass my concerns to the relevant departments,” said Cheng.

He had opened the first few replies in the autumn of 2013, but stopped when he  realised he was unlikely to get a meaningful or timely response.  On Tuesday, his suspicion was confirmed when he went through all the unopened replies he’d saved up: they were all more or less the same.

Cheng, together with his wife  Clara Cheung, are well-known artists and co-founders of an alternative art space in Prince Edward, Kowloon, called  C&G Artpartment, where they have curated numerous shows about political and social issues in the city since 2007.

Few people were around to watch Cheng repetitively ripping  open envelopes on Tuesday. “There were a couple of police officers who kept watch but that was about the size of the audience,” he said.  Not that he minded, since the protest was really meant to be documented as part of a two-year project called “Curate No More” – a tongue-in-cheek title that in Cantonese sounds like swearing  – intended to show the repetitive nature of most jobs, including art curatorship.