Hundreds of people, mostly wearing masks, gathered in northern Hong Kong to deface a pro-democracy Lennon Wall and replace it with pro-government posters during Friday’s early hours, as public disputes over the now-suspended extradition bill rumbled on.
It was the second time in a week the wall in Tai Po had been defaced.
The mural, near the entrance to Tai Po Market MTR station, is one of a number of Lennon Walls which have recently sprung up across the city, on which people write pro-democracy slogans or comment on the bill on colourful Post-it stickers.
The controversial legislation would allow offenders to be sent to jurisdictions the city has no formal agreement with, including mainland China. Opponents fear it would led to unfair prosecutions north of the border.
Taipo's #lennonwall defaced for the 2nd time by a larger group of masked individuals at 2am on Friday. "Lennon tunnel" replaced with "die a natural death". Some posting covered by poster of a pro-govt rally. Wreaths added by the masked group. Volunteers cleaning now. #antiELAB pic.twitter.com/P7UcFPLPy8
— Lok. (@sumlokkei) July 19, 2019
According to Tai Po district councillor Au Chun-wah, six coaches, which could each carry about 60 people, arrived near the MTR station at about 2am. Six to seven private cars and a truck arrived at the same time, he said.
Au estimated there were about 300 people, adding that they wore masks and either black or white outfits. He said he believed some were Hongkongers and some were not, as he heard them speaking in both Cantonese and Mandarin.
He said they removed lots of messages and plastic wrapping used to cover the wall, and pasted posters for a pro-establishment rally scheduled for Saturday, at Tamar Park in Admiralty.
“Some people were instructing, some were watching over the situation, some were damaging, some were applying paste and some were posting papers on the wall,” Au said.
Photos circulated online showed the four Chinese characters for “Lennon Tunnel”, posted at the entrance to pedestrian underpasses to the station, were replaced by the characters for “Die in one’s bed”.
Those four Chinese words were used by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when she announced on July 9 that the extradition bill was “dead”.
Au said volunteers watching over the wall reported the case to police officers, who arrived at the scene soon after and tried to disperse the crowds. The group of people damaging the display left by about 3.30am.
Dalu Lin Kok-cheung, a Tai Po resident who had been guarding the wall when the group arrived, said he and others had retreated because there were so many arrivals.
“We didn’t have many people. Even if we did, we didn’t want to have any clashes here,” the 30-year-old said.
He believed the group was also behind Tuesday’s attack on the same wall, during which it was covered with printed flags of the Eight-Nation Alliance, a coalition of foreign powers that invaded China in 1900.
“Someone recognised that people who led the two actions were the same,” he said.
After Friday’s incident, local residents soon began restoring the wall to its previous state.
Man Kwong-wing, a 69-year-old retiree who had lived in Tai Po since 1992, went to the scene to help clear up the damage on Friday morning.
“I’m here on my own initiative and do it out of my conscience,” he said.
He noted the opposing group’s right to express their opinion, adding: “But you cannot damage items of the others”.
Another Tai Po resident, who gave his name only as Wing, found the damage unreasonable.
“You can use other ways to express your opinion, such as using memos, as Lennon Wall is a space where you can freely express your voice,” said Wing, who had volunteered to clean up the site.
“But using industrial glue to cover other voices ... it seems like you are killing the voices of a place.”
Named after John Lennon, the original Lennon Wall was established in the 1980s in Prague, in what was then Czechoslovakia, and was covered with graffiti and lyrics inspired by The Beatles.
Other online pictures showed that pictures of opponents to the bill, including Hong Kong pro-democracy singer Denise Ho Wan-sze, legislator Claudia Mo Man-ching and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, were also put by the wall.
Floral wreaths, commonly seen at funerals, were also placed near the entrance of the pedestrian underpasses.
The Post contacted police for comment.
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