With the bloody attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau (who taught me media law at journalism school) and the government’s ruthless removal of Invader’s adorable works of street art, this has been a terrible week for Hong Kong.
But some have decided to take things forward. Some have chosen to protest against the attack and chant slogans like “They can’t kill us all” to “defend” the city’s press freedom. Others apparently believe actions speak louder than words, and they are grouping together to bring Invader’s art back to life.
After Invader expressed in a full statement  his sadness over the removal of his art, revealing that Hong Kong was the first out of the 60 world cities he had “artistically invaded”, volunteers have called for a “Space Invaders Restoration Scheme”.
Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong told me that a crew of nearly 10 volunteers, including architect Alvin Wong and HK Honey’s designer/ beekeeper Michael Leung, are calling for the public to join the scheme, which calls for the restoration of the French artist’s works.
Alvin Wong came up with the idea, while Kacey Wong created a poster. “My poster is there to encourage people to take action instead of thinking that they are helpless citizens," said Kacey.
“Art is my religion. If you see somebody destroying art of high value, complaining is not good enough, action is,” the award-winning artist said.
“That poster is to remind everyone that they can do something too. They can ‘save’ it by resurrecting or even changing it a bit. The idea is to inherit Invader’s spirit so we can learn from it and experience the thrill of art.”
The Hong Kong government has been known as a mortal enemy of street art. The Highways Department has a track record of keeping the city clean by painting over the late “King of Kowloon” Tsang Tsou-choi’s street calligraphy. The Home Affairs Bureau, which is responsible for the city’s cultural affairs, only maintains protection of two remaining sites of King of Kowloon – in Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier and a lamp post near Ping Shek Estate.
And just before Valentines Day, the Highways Department took action again to clear Invader’s street art – a mosaic of tiles of characters from Pac-Man on King’s Road between Fortress Hill and Tin Hau. The department claimed it did so for safety reasons .
Local art lovers condemned the action. But some said the government had a role to play to maintain the city’s order said there was a fine line between art and vandalism.
“Well,” said Wong, “when you are sick, you need to see experts like a doctor. When you have art problems, you should ask an art expert...I guess [the government officials] never learnt from King of Kowloon. [They are] always behind the law as if they are machines.”
Here’s a definition by Wong, who is also a university professor: “It is vandalism, but it is vandalism with high value to the city and the people, so we should preserve it.”
“Citizens just want to have some fun to relax and enjoy a little smile,” Wong said. But the government’s action was like telling the people of Hong Kong “No smiling!”
When and where this “restoration scheme” will really take place is still unknown. But to Wong, the most important point is to restore people’s minds. “What I really try to restore is the mind of the government bodies and people who care about art.”
I wish for Lau to recover soon and return to the frontline, where he might be able to restore people’s faith in Hong Kong, even by just a little bit.