Propaganda poster display offers look back to earlier Hong Kong strife

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 6:06am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 11:43am

As the electoral reform debate rages, Hongkongers will have a timely chance to relive an earlier age of strife when Chinese political propaganda posters - including anti-colonial messages - go on display on Thursday in a Central gallery.

The posters date as far back as the 1950s and include some issued during the 1967 riots to stir Hongkongers to fight British rule.

But the timing - as the Occupy Central campaign threatens to bring the city to a standstill in the name of democracy - is purely coincidental, said Christopher Bailey, owner of the Picture This gallery, where the show will run until August 16.

Bailey, who curated the show, believes the heated debate over universal suffrage will help create interest in the bold images.

"Our timing is certainly not harmed or hindered by the current political climate," he said.

The city's political atmosphere has become especially fraught since Beijing issued a white paper asserting its authority over Hong Kong last month.

The paper prompted claims the city's political freedoms were being whittled away, and boosted turnout in the July 1 march and Occupy Central's poll on universal suffrage.

"A few weeks ago, we were wondering if it was going to play in our favour or against us," Bailey said of the reform debate. "I think it has played in our favour but it just happened by coincidence because this has been in the planning for 18 months."

An unnamed local academic institution has already bought several of the 45 posters that will go on display.

"They were issued in 1967 in China and used here to stir up trouble in Hong Kong, so they were troublemaker posters," Bailey said. They feature slogans of support for those taking part in the anti-British protests.

"They are historically interesting because they are part of the social fabric of Hong Kong and they should be preserved for future generations, rather than ending up in someone's private collection."

Prices for the posters range from HK$4,000 to HK$16,000, with the rare Hong Kong posters costing more.

More than 50 people died in the riots. The display of such posters was illegal at the time, as the government introduced emergency regulations to put down an uprising inspired by the Cultural Revolution.