Silence is Compliance: a pro-democracy platform

Words by Giuditta Ercolino
June 17, 2020

“Silence is Compliance: 寧鳴而死,不默而生” is an international online art project to remember one year of social movement in Hong Kong and to rally support from international art community.

Launched by a group of Hong Kong artists based in Europe, the aim is to raise awareness among the international artistic community of the looming National Security Law imposed by Beijing.

The National Security Law, passed on May 28, and would make criminal any act of secession, subversion, terrorism and activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong. People believe this will affect free speech and their right to protest and many are also afraid Hong Kong’s judicial system will become as the one in China’s. In fact, in line with the “one country, two systems” principle, the draft resolution goes against Article 23, stating that Hong Kong must draft its own security law. Lastly, people worry that a threat to Hong Kong’s liberties could affect its attractiveness as a business and economic powerhouse.

The exchange over the security legislation, which is expected to be implemented by September, came as Hong Kong marked the anniversary of a major protest that saw a turning point in the city’s pro-democracy movement.

The platform “Silence is Compliance” is led by Young Blood Initiative, an organisation operating from Amsterdam, London and Berlin, in collaboration with the bilingual English-Chinese platform We Are HKers and Hong Kong-based publishing collective Zine Coop. The initiative comes after a petition signed by more than 1,500 cultural workers in Hong Kong who are expressing worries that China’s new national security law will further restrict creative freedom. “When the act of remembering could be a sin, the freedoms of speech, expressions and publishing are severely threatened”, is stated on their website.

The assumption is that as Chinese authorities finalise the legislation, Hong Kong creatives abroad have bigger responsibilities. However, Candy Choi, one of the founder of the platform, fears the group and their collaborators might not be able to return to Hong Kong because their personal safety will be at risk.

The art project showcases works created mostly by Hong Kong based artists and creatives. The pieces are curated to illustrate the social movement in different angles through the lenses of artists, researchers and people from the city:

From the Eyes of the Researchers: A team of 4 art researchers put together a visual essay on key moments of the movement through art and objects.

From the Eyes of the People: Personal stories by people from Hong Kong will be told through text and video interviews and zines.

From the Eyes of the Artists: The protest movement has inspired a generation of Hong Kong based artists. The gallery will showcase a curated collection of pieces by some interesting talents, completing the experience through the artists’ angles.

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