Semiotica Dramatica and a Resistance Ecology On Site : #OccupyCentral at Causeway Bay and Admiralty

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On 19th November 2014, I spent 0900-1200hrs roaming through the #OccupyCentral sites at Causeway Bay and Admiralty during a short layover in Hong Kong. This is my attempt at curating some of the movement’s organic semiotics, meme innovation, place-making, and performative resistance. This post follows up on The Anatomy of a Social Media(ted) Protest: #OccupyCentral on Instagram. See also An organic #OccupyCentral timeline on-site at AdmiraltyShot on an iPhone 5, unedited. Image Heavy. 

01 Agentic Cute

Totoro

Manga

Print posters

Hand drawn cartoons

02 Popular Culture Appropriation

Materialism

Pop music

Starwars, Terminator, Spiderman, Silversurfer, Gundam, Toy Story

Mr Men and Little Miss

Mind the gap

Banksy remix

03 Religious and Political Appropriation

Religious figures

Emblems of activism: Amnesty International, Anonymous, Au San Suu Kyi, Viva la France

The UK crew

The HKG crew

04 Chinese Folklore Appropriation

05 Creative Enterprise

06 DIY Resistance

07 Paper Power

Origami

Post-it gallery

News parody

HSBC parody

Meme heaven

Chinese wordplay

Christmas

Flyers

Hand-drawn graphics

Hand-written word

A4 posters

08 Wave-riding Artists

09 The watched are watching the watchers

10 Self-archive

Admiralty MTR collage

Political map

FAQ

Causeway Bay on-site timeline

Admiralty on-site timeline [see full transcription here]

11 Cross-platform sharing of content

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

QR codes

Mass produced stickers

Television news

Local Press

International Press

12 Place-making

Barricades

Furniture

Plants

Makeshift shelter

Statement shelter

Tent decor

Rows and rows of tents

Juxtaposed against skyscrapers

13 Grid politics

Legalese and terminology

Officious transport notices

Media stand

MTR paper sprawl

McDonald’s paper sprawl

International passersby

Text:
‘STAND FIRM BE PROUD
CANADIANS ARE AMONG U
CONTINUE FIGHTING FOR
WHAT RIGHTFULLY
BELONGS TO YOU!’

Added in ink and pencil scribbles:
‘+AUSTRALIANS!
and 1 Norwegian
+German
+FRENCH <3
+British!
+USA
+MEXICANS
+SINGAPOREAN
+West PHILLY
+HARLEM
+Malaysia
Not for me’

14 Self-regulating ecology

Agriculture

Loan systems

Space structuration

Routing traffic

Essentials: Phone charging station, study group, washroom facilities

Rules

15 Survival guide

First aid centre, suggested attire and safety essentials, complaint bureau.

Have you been at any of the #OccupyCentral nodes? What other semiotics and ecological organizations have you seen? Beep me!

An organic #OccupyCentral timeline on-site at Admiralty

Skyscraper tent juxtaposition 01 Central locations

I chanced upon a brilliant #OccupyCentral timeline on-site at the Admiralty node and transcribe it as is. Fragments of the timeline are in a slideshow below. See also an early curation of #OccupyCentral as mediated on Instagram. Images shot on an iPhone 5 on 19 November 2014. 

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Hong Kong Stands Up: We Are Making History 2014/10

2014.8.31
Bright Spots on the ‘Darkest Day’ of Hong Kong

5,000 flashed their mobile phones at Tamar Park at government headquarters to protest against the decision by Beijing to pre-screen candidates for the election of Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017.

“Today is the darkest day of Hong Kong’s democratic movement. The road of dialogue has come to an end and the occupation of Central will definitely happen,” says Occupy Central’s Benny Tai. All 25 pro-democracy legislators vowed to veto the government’s bill for the political reform.

2014.9.22
College Students Boycott Class for Democracy

13,000 students from 25 tertiary institutions across Hong Kong and their supporters gather at Chinese University to kick off Hong Kong’s most massive ever week-long class boycott to protest against Beijing’s highly restrictive framework on the 2017 chief executive election.

The number of participants at the mass rally far exceeds those for the campaign against patriotic national education programme in high schools two years ago at the same location.

2014.9.25
Students Demand Dialogue with Chief Executive

Chow Yong Kang, Secretary General of Federation of Students, leads 4,000 students and protesters in the march to Hong Kong’s Government House, carrying a giant cutout head of C Y Leung, Chief Executive of the territory, to protest Beijing’s strict framework for electoral reform and to demand true universal suffrage.

The march was initiated as Leung failed to show up and have a dialogue with the students after 13,000 students and supporters kicked-off Hong Kong’s largest class boycott on Monday for a week.

2014.9.25
Civil Disobedience – CY Down

A woman protester puts a headband reading ‘Civil Disobedience’ on her packpack as she marches with 4,000 students and their supporters to Hong Kong’s Government House, passing a giant cutout head of C Y Leung, Chief Executive of the territory, to protest Beijing’s strict framework for electoral reform and to demand true universal suffrage.

2014.9.26
Record High School Students Boycott Class

A record 1,500 high school students joins the Hong-Kong-wide week-long class boycott on the fifth day to protest Beijing’s highly restrictive framework on electoral reform. The sit-in at government headquarters was organised by Scholarism, the popular high school student activist group that managed to force the government to withdraw the patriotic ‘national education’ programme in 2012.

A large number of citizens came to give their support and a total of 3,000 people was recorded at 6 pm at the conclusion.

2014.9.27
Civil Disobedience and Riot Police

Mr Cho flashes a banner reading ‘Civil Disobedience’ in front of a pack of police in full riot gear at Hong Kong’s government headquarters at Admiralty, in support of the Occupy Central movement and to protest Beijing’s strict framework for electoral reform and to demand true universal suffrage.

2014.9.27
80,000 Rally for Real Suffrage at Admiralty

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens continue to peacefully occupy Admiralty to fight for democracy and genuine universal suffrage for Hong Kong.

2014.9.28
Occupy Central Launched

Occupy Central will start now,’ Benny Tai, co-founded of the civil disobedience movement, declared to 50,000 students and protesters rallying outside Government headquarters at 1:45 am after Police arrested some 74 people earlier including Alex Chow Yong Kang, Secretary General of Federation of Students, his deputy Lester Shum and Joshua Wong, 17 year-old Convenor of activist high school student group Scholarism. Their homes have been searched by police and Wong’s bail denied.

Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP) is a nonviolent occupation protest for genuine universal suffrage originally scheduled to kick-off in Central on 1 October 2014, China’s 65th National Day.

2014.9.28
Pro-democracy Protesters Tear-gassed

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens who want to reach Occupy Central, the civil disobedience movement to pressure Beijing into granting genuine democratic reforms, at government headquarters at Admiralty were blocked by the police. They took to the street and occupy Harcourt Road, the 6-lane highway between the MTR (subway) station and the government offices.

The streets of Hong Kong on Sunday night resemble a battleground, with police in full riot gear and gas masks firing tear gas on students and citizens wearing makeshift masks and wielding umbrellas, in the worst clashes between police and demonstrators since the 2005 WTO protests when 34 rounds of tear gas canisters were fired at the mostly armed and violent Korean farmer protesters.

87 rounds of tear gas canisters were fired at the unarmed and generally peaceful protesters indiscriminately and are totally unwarranted.

2014.9.28
Umbrella Man Undaunted by Riot Police

Thousands of unarmed and generally peaceful protesters were only wielding umbrellas and wearing makeshift masks and plastic wraps against the 87 rounds of tear gas canisters fired against them by the police in full riot gear and gas masks.

However, the protesters were undaunted by the successive launching of tear gas canisters. Most dispersed, took cover but regrouped after 10-15 minutes.

2014.9.28
Tear Gas Canisters Fired at Close Range

87 rounds of tear gas canisters were fired at the unarmed and generally peaceful protesters indiscriminately and are totally unwarranted. Some of them were fired at close range causing unnecessary harm.

2014.9.28
Umbrella Man Undaunted by Riot Police

Thousands of unarmed and generally peaceful protesters were only wielding umbrellas and wearing makeshift masks and plastic wraps against the 87 rounds of tear gas canisters fired against them by the police in full riot gear and gas masks.

However, the protesters were undaunted by the successive launching of tear gas canisters. Most dispersed, took cover but regrouped after 10-15 minutes.

2014.9.29
I Want Democracy

16-year-old Christy Choi, a Form 5 students from True Light College displays her wish – ‘I want democracy’ on her back, like most of the thousands of citizens who took to the street and occupy Yee Wo street just outside Sogo Japanese department store at the heart of Causeway Bay, one of the busiest shopping and dining area in Hong Kong.

Ten of Thousands of Hong Kong citizens initiate their own ‘occupy’ movement in different districts all over Hong Kong after they are blocked by the police from reaching Occupy Central, the civil disobedience movement to pressure Beijing into granting genuine democratic reforms, at government headquarters at Admiralty.

Large scale ‘occupy’ movement have also been initiated by the citizens in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and on a smaller scale in many districts such as Wanchai. Riot police had not been seen on the street today.

2014.9.30
We Want Real Suffrage and CY Step Down

Thousands of Hong Kong citizens continue to peacefully occupy Mongkok, the busiest district in the world according to Guinness World Records, sharing their aspiration about the future of Hong Kong. A huge banner reads: ‘Peaceful Rally, CY Leung Step Down, We Want Real Suffrage’. (CY is the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Government.)

Ten of Thousands of Hong Kong citizens initiate their own ‘occupy’ movement in different districts all over Hong Kong after they are blocked by the police from reaching Occupy Central, the civil disobedience movement to pressure Beijing into granting genuine democratic reforms, at government headquarters at Admiralty.

Large scale ‘occupy’ movement have also been initiated by the citizens in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and on a smaller scale in many districts such as Wanchai. Riot police had not been seen on the street today.

2014.10.1
Umbrella Movement – Hong Kong’s People Power

When 87 tear gar canisters were hurled towards the unarmed and generally peaceful protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday, they had only their umbrellas to protect themselves. The tools they brought along for protection against the sun had become an income of ‘People Power’ symbolising their protest against Beijing’s reneged agreement to grant them open elections by 2017.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens continue to peacefully occupy Admiralty, Mongkong, Causeway Bay and Tsimshatsui. At Admiralty, placards demanding ‘CY Leung to have Direct Dialogue [with protesters] and Real Suffrage’ was seen.

2014.10.2
Creativity x Occupy Central = Umbrella Movement

While riot police are lobbing tear gas canisters at unarmed and generally peaceful protesters, many Hong Kong citizens are putting on their creative and artistic hats to design and put up interesting art installations throughout the protest areas.

‘Where is Genuine Suffrage Road’, reads the road side at Time Mei Avenue next to the government headquarters, a play on words as ‘where’ and ‘road’ in Cantonese dialect have nearly the same pronunciation. Sitting next is an art installation of an umbrella tree mounted on four barricades as the centrepiece symbols of Occupy Central, dubbed “Umbrella Revolution” or “Umbrella Movement” by social media.

2014.10.4
Occupy Central Not a Revolution

‘This is not a colour revolution,’ Benny Tai, co-founder of Occupy Central and the student leaders told the massive gathering of supporters at Admiralty, the largest peaceful rally since last Sunday when 87 tear gas canisters were hurled by the police in an attempt to clear the crowd. It is a movement initiated by Hong Kong’s civil society to fight for genuine universal suffrage.

The peace rally is in response to the violent attacks by anti-occupy groups, including suspected triad, on peaceful occupiers in Mongkok and Causeway Bay Alex Chow, Secretary-General of Hong Kong Federation of Students says they are willing to start talks immediately if their conditions are met.

Tai says that a channel will be opened for civil servants to go back to work at government headquarters on Monday so that there is no excuse for the police to clear the Occupy outside.

2014.10.6
Umbrella Man

The ‘Umbrella Man’ of Occupy Central in Hong Kong, immortalised on the cover of Time magazine, has materialised at the centre of the protest zone at Admiralty as a three-metre tall statute holding a yellow umbrella.

22 year-old artist, Milk, said he was inspired by a picture of an Occupy protester holding an umbrella over a policeman to protect the officer from the rain and is a symbol of peace.

2014.10.9
United Non-cooperation Called

Leaders of Occupy Central, Federation of Students and pan-democrat legislators are united in calling for full-scale non-cooperation with the Hong Kong government which did not offer any concession in the face of mass protest.

Benny Tai, co-founder of Occupy Central, said that the ‘Occupy Movement’ is very important. It is a spontaneous and resolute act initiated by the citizens to fight for genuine universal suffrage.

2014.10.10
Joshua Wong Calls for long-term Occupy

Joshua Wong of Scholarism, Alex Chow and Lester Shun – Secretary-General of Hong Kong Federation of Students and his deputy – called for ‘long-term Occupy’ when an estimated 100,000 returned to the streets last night to protest government’s cancellation of talks with the students. Many stayed overnight as numerous tents are popping up in Admiralty, Mongkok and Causeway Bay.

The student leaders and protesters were angry that despite their many concessions, government gave none as chief executive CY Leung and chief secretary Carrie Lam, are leaving the city for a regional forum in Guangzhou.

The Anatomy of a Social Media(ted) Protest: #OccupyCentral on Instagram

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I manually track the #OccupyCentral tag on Instagram over 72hrs and attempt to thematize the visual emblems of social protests as mediated on social media. [Note: Image Heavy]

01 Iconic visual symbols 

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02 An iconic image/scene capturing the essence of the movement

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03 Borrowing emblems from other social movements

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04 Borrowing from emblems in pop culture

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05 People from other protests lend their support

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06 Subversive caricatures of political leaders

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07 Keep Calm and X

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08 Ambiguously appropriated Hollywood-borrowed memes 

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09 Somewhat humorous signboard trolling

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10 Hashtag mutation and innovation

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11 Social media apps and networks get blocked

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12 Diaspora and locals residing overseas organize themselves

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13 Protest essentials are suggested

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14 Protest paraphernalia is made 

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15 Injuries are documented

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16 Down time is captured

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17 Protest selfies

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18 Themed protest selfies i.e. Student selfies

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19 Close-up selfies of local residents away from the event

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20 Scantly relevant tourist selfies

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21 Tourists posing in the thick of events

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22 Scantly relevant fashionistas

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23 Counter-hegemonic aesthetic leisurely shots of locals

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24 Pet selfies bearing emblems of the protest

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25 Irrelevant posts jump on the tag for viewer traffic

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What other visual emblems have been circulating? Were there images that were particularly grabbing to you? Beep me!