22 January 2020
Police arrested a 14-year-old girl just before Christmas for drawing flowers in chalk on the Lennon Wall in Admiralty. Photo: Facebook
Police arrested a 14-year-old girl just before Christmas for drawing flowers in chalk on the Lennon Wall in Admiralty. Photo: Facebook

Graffiti girl — police killing a chick to scare the monkeys

Hong Kong is no longer the same after the Occupy movement.

While Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the campaign was making Hongkongers depressed, it ignited the hopes of many youngsters, who voiced their desire for freedom and democracy, including the 14-year-old girl who was arrested for drawing graffiti in chalk on the “Lennon Wall” near government headquarters a few days ago.

The girl, who was sent to a children’s home Monday under a protection order police obtained from a court, was allowed to go home on Wednesday, subject to a curfew, after she appealed to the High Court.

It is quite strange that the girl was treated like this, even though her father had made a commitment to the lower court to take care of his daughter properly.

Most significantly, the child has not been charged with an offense.

The initial court order raised concern among the public that the government was using the police and the court as political tools to suppress opposing voices, so that even a student’s graffiti could lead to a criminal case.

What did the 14-year-old do to make the authorities so nervous?

She was drawing flowers in chalk outside the government building to express her demand for real democracy.

The wall on which she drew her graffiti was dubbed the Lennon Wall — named after the John Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic, which is covered in messages of love and peace — during the 79-day Occupy protest in Admiralty.

Tens of thousands of people left supportive comments in small notes stuck on the wall, making it one of the most eye-catching spots in the protest zone.

Hong Kong people still know that justice and fairness are among their core values.

As media reported on the girl’s case, raising concern among the public, police admitted that drawing graffiti with chalk is not as serious as criminal damage but could be an offense under the Summary Offences Ordinance.

Then on Thursday afternoon, the day after the teenager was allowed to go home, police stood by as a group of protesters scribbled graffiti in chalk on the Lennon Wall.

In contrast to their treatment of the child, police did not stop them from doing so but warned them they could be charged in future with an offense.

The girl could be a victim of the government testing the water before moving to tighten its control over freedom of expression.

Police have yet to charge any of the crowd of people who camped outside Apple Daily’s offices in early October, preventing the newspaper from being distributed on schedule, but they had enough time to spend cracking down on a child for drawing graffiti.

It’s quite a joke. 

The police are losing their professionalism as they take their cues from the unpopular head of the government.

However, in freeing the girl from the children’s home, the High Court judge has now turned things back to their normal track.

The court has sent a signal to the authorities to avoid oppressing any further victims and is doing its part to ensure that Hongkongers still enjoy the freedom of expression.

Pro-government media have tried to create the impression that it was worth keeping the girl in the children’s home for the sake of social stability.

But the fact is that the authorities have clearly shown their desire to tighten up on the freedom of expression.

While the Lennon Wall and the protest sites no longer exist after the police cleared them in early December, Hongkongers are finding their own way to express their appeals for true democracy, including the 14-year-old graffiti artist.

Drawing flowers on a wall, she did nothing to threaten the safety of the city or to mobilise others to gather in front of the Lennon Wall to reoccupy the protest site.

If the police genuinely believe she posed a threat, they should formally charge her in court with criminal damage, the offense for which they arrested her.

They should not abuse their power by trying to intimidate Hongkongers who wish to exercise their freedom of expression.

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EJ Insight writer