For years, Hong Kong's artists have been a fragmented, silent minority. Most quietly get on with their work, trying to make ends meet in a profession that doesn't get much social attention or recognition. But now, the Factory Artists Concern Group (FACG) is trying to change this, calling on artists from both the visual and performing arts to make themselves heard.
Set up last year primarily to protect the interests of artists who work in industrial or factory buildings, the group has broadened its mandate to promote the development and advancement of the fast-changing arts field. Top of its agenda is winning more political rights for artists.
The group's latest demands include 'the expulsion of Timothy Fok Tsun-ting', who represents the functional constituency for Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publications in the Legislative Council. According to the FACG, Fok hasn't shown any interest in the development of the arts in Hong Kong; so why he is representing artists in the legislature?
It also questions why the 14 people from the art and cultural sector who had a vote to 'select' Hong Kong's new chief executive didn't consult those they were supposed to represent.
Which is why the concern group is lobbying the government to give individual artists the right to vote in the upcoming functional constituency election (at present only artists who represent a group have the additional vote).
'We have missed being represented in the chief executive election, but there is still the Legco election,' according to a FACG statement. 'The deadline for voter registration for functional constituencies is May 16, 2012 - as part of the cultural sector we must stand up for ourselves and elect representatives who we endorse.'
At a press call last week, the FACG - convened by visual artist Chow Chun-fai and performance artist Anthony Leung Po-shan - gathered together more than 60 artists (including stage director Chan Ping-chiu, choreographer Mui Cheuk-yin, musician Kung Chi-shing and set designer Yuen Hon-wai) to lend their voices on these issues in solidarity.
The political landscape and the local art scene are about to undergo major transformations heralded by the upcoming change of leadership and the multibillion-dollar West Kowloon Cultural District project. There is also talk of setting up a cultural bureau to take responsibility for devising and implementing cultural policies.
If Hong Kong's artists want to speak up, now is the time.