The streets of Hong Kong are quieter now but the themes of the city’s protest movement are being portrayed in a publicly funded Canadian play that takes its name from one of the most controversial moments of the unrest. Yellow Objects , a multimedia production that has received about C$80,000 (US$64,000) in Canadian taxpayer funding, is an effort to “keep our stories alive in spite of the oppressive National Security Law”, said Hong Kong-born playwright Derek Chan, referring to the 2020 legislation against secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference – which critics fear is intended to suppress dissent and erode freedom. The production is threaded with humour, but of the kind that creators fear might put them at risk – for instance, an online component of Yellow Objects includes a depiction of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor in a passionate open-mouthed kiss. “Perhaps truth through subversive irreverence is the only way we will be allowed to tell our story from now on,” Chan says in notes for the play. Yellow Objects was originally envisaged as a fully scripted stage show with live actors. But Covid-19 transformed it into an interactive online experience, plus an installation and exhibition at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre. The first online chapter of the show went live on April 19, with two more to be released over the next fortnight. The Firehall installation, made up of found objects, recordings and digital projections, will be open from May 11 to 22, with only small groups allowed to enter at a time, in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines. “We need to keep everybody safe. That’s the reality now,” Chan said. Hong Kong police assailed for ‘kicking man in an alley and referring to him as a yellow object’ “I’m not worried, but I’m realistic about potential ramifications,” said Chan, 34, the show’s creator. “I’m proud of the project and I think it’s important to have one real name on the show … [but] even in Canada here we have a dozen artists that are self-censoring their own names because of fear of the National Security Law half a world away. “For everybody’s safety we just decided that it’s best if most of the team works anonymously or under a pseudonym.” The National Security Law criminalises behaviour not just in Hong Kong and mainland China, but anywhere in the world. Contributors to the show include people who divide their time between Canada and Hong Kong, Chan said. Chan moved to Canada as a teenager. “I’m old enough to remember the  Hong Kong handover. It was one of the rare occasions when my parents let me stay up that late,” he said; one of his earliest memories was attending the June 4 commemoration rallies in Victoria Park with his father. Even in Canada here we have a dozen artists that are self-censoring their own names because of fear of the National Security Law half a world away Playwright Derek Chan But he did not take the typical path of immigrating to Canada with his family. Instead, he attended his last two years of high school in Norway “in the middle of nowhere”, before a teacher there suggested the theatre programme at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He moved to Canada alone at 17; his family still lives in Hong Kong. Chan, who used to return to Hong Kong regularly but has not been back for a few years, said he watched the large-scale protests in the summer of 2019 with pride. But he said he was “enraged” by the introduction of the National Security Law and what he sees as the central government reneging on promises of post-handover autonomy for Hong Kong, contained in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. In Vancouver’s ‘Cantosphere’, a sense of responsibility and an identity under siege “I was then, and still am, in grief,” he said. “Fast forward to the National Security Law and that means I won’t be going home to Hong Kong for a while. It’s the end of Hong Kong as we know it, that we love and miss.” Instead of returning to Hong Kong for a few months “like a tourist”, Chan decided to share a story of the protest movement in Canada, and Yellow Objects was born. Chan is co-artistic director of Rice & Beans Theatre, which is producing the show; it receives multi-project funding from the Canada Council, the BC Arts Council, the province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver. The theatre allocated about C$80,000 (US$65,000) of that funding to Yellow Objects , Chan said. It is also being financed by ticket sales to the Firehall installation, starting at C$15, although the online components – including a “point and click adventure” computer game, according to Chan – are free. The story starts in the future – in the Vancouver of 2051 – but sweeps back to the Hong Kong of 2019 and 2020. It tells of a multi-generational family mystery that has its roots in the protest movement, weaving together comedy, song and supernatural elements. Meet the transnationals: They moved to Canada but never really left Hong Kong Yellow Objects takes its name from an incident that triggered uproar in September 2019, in which a group of police were videoed kicking a protester on the ground in an alley in the Hong Kong neighbourhood of Yuen Long. A senior officer later disputed the nature of the incident, saying police were kicking a “yellow object”. Chan said Yellow Objects was partly motivated to “raise awareness about what the Canadian government is or isn’t doing” about Hong Kong. But he wondered if “maybe, this play is just a feeble protest in face of inevitability”. One day, he hopes Yellow Objects could be staged in Hong Kong. “Will it happen? Not in my lifetime,” he said with a laugh.