This text is the translation of an article published in Chinese by The Stand News on September 1, 2020. It is published on Global Voices by a content partnership agreement.
During this year's Hungry Ghost Festival, held on September 1-2, a group of Hong Kong artists used the occasion to vent their political frustrations.
In Chinese folklore, the entire month of July is equivalent to the Phantom Month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Ghost Day is the 14th or 15th of that month.
Legend has it that during that month the gates of the kingdom of hell open and hungry ghosts roam the world of the living. Some take the opportunity to visit loved ones or to take revenge on their enemies. The Day of Ghosts is the day the living can communicate with the dead.
In many Chinese cultures, people burn incense, Joss paper, or ghost money, paper dress patterns, gold, and even mobile phones for visiting spirits. This traditional ritual is considered a demonstration of respect for the ancestors and a cathartic release of repressed feelings towards the dead.
In this year, the lunar July 14th fell on September 1 and a group of Hong Kong artists gathered at the Nullah Road Garden in Prince Edward to burn and offer their handmade paper art to wandering spirits. The performance, directed by the local artistic collective C&G Artparment since 2016, has political bases; It is titled “Burning the Audit Book” (燒 數 薄), which can also mean “fuck your mother” in colloquial Cantonese.
The artist Kacey Wong made two protest kits that contained a yellow helmet and a gas mask, among other equipment used by the “Fire Wizards”, protesters who throw firebombs, and by the “Smoke Extinguishing Teams”, specialized on deactivating the tear gas canisters. Both groups have been at the forefront of anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong for more than a year.
Wong explained the idea behind his paper play::
滅 煙 小隊 和 火 魔法師 都是 我 非常 敬佩 的 抗爭 角色 ， 他們 冒 住 自己 生命 危險 為 香港 民主 自由 奮鬥… 現實 世界 冇 勇氣 掟 磚 或 汽油 彈 ， 但 我 希望 死 咗 後 做到 ， 所以 燒 定比 自己。
I greatly admire Fire Wizards and Fire Extinguishing Teams; they have risked their lives to fight for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong (…). In real life, I don't have the courage to throw bricks or firebombs, but I hope to have her once I'm dead. That is why I am burning for my own future spirit.
In addition to Kacey Wong, artist Man Chan also built a team of gammon bombs, or # 82 grenade, and explained:
現實 世界 中 政權 與 人民 武力 不對 等 ， 便 自製 了 手榴彈 ， 希望 可 在 陰間 派上 用場。
In real life, the martial force between the state and the people is too uneven, so I hope that the bombs can protect us in the lower realms.
Artist Peggy Chan created three red, white, and blue ballot boxes – French Revolution colors that indicate freedom, equality, and fraternity. Chan said the ballot boxes expressed the people's aspirations for universal suffrage.
In addition, each ballot box had numbers representing three of the most significant accidents for Hong Kongers: 8964, 721, and 831.
The number 8964 represents June 4, 1989, when one million people protested against the Chinese government's harsh crackdown on peaceful demonstrations for democracy in Beijing.
July 21, 2019 is the date of the attack on the Yuen Long subway station, when a pro-system mob attacked the passengers with the silent consent of the Police.
The latest issue is the date of the attack on the Prince Edward Subway Station on August 31, 2019, when riot police attacked passengers as they tried to stop protesters returning home.
The artist said that memories of those events cannot be erased.
In late August, the Hong Kong Police detained 12 people related to the Yuen Long incident for “riots.” Among those people is the legislator Lam Cheuk-ting, who was wounded that day by the pro-Beijing mob. The activists accuse the Police of rewriting history and turning victims into rioters.
Artist Li Man-ho made a giant Winnie the Pooh brandishing a mallet; That figure was widely used by netizens to poke fun at China's President Xi Jinping.
Other paper crafts with strong political symbolism were seen in Hong Kong, such as helmets, masks, and deer. “Take a deer and call it a horse” ”is a Chinese saying that means turning black into white; therefore the deer represents the truth. Many have burned phantom money with the imprinted face of CEO Carrie Lam.
Clara, director of the C&G Artparment, said that satirical performance is a way for people to express their discontent and release frustrations:
人間 搵唔到 人 回應 訴求 ， 唯有 試 下 其他 渠道 ， 例如 陰間。
In the real world, no one answers our demands, so we have to look for other channels such as communication with the realm of ghosts.