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Hong Kong Artists on Immigration

A public notice banner for the National Security Law from 2020 in Hong Kong.

Since the implementation of Hong Kong’s National Security Law on June 30, 2020, tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens have emigrated. Artists who left Hong Kong formed the largest community in the United Kingdom. One trigger for the exodus came in 2021 when the UK implemented measures to increase the emigration of British National Overseas (BNO) citizens in response to China’s enactment of Hong Kong’s National Security Law.

On February 5, The Art Newspaper published an interview with Hong Kong artists discussing immigration. According to the interviews, the government’s current censorship is mainly aimed at the media. Direct intervention in exhibitions is not prominent, but artists are experiencing inevitable self-censorship and atrophy, and economic hardship is making the situation difficult for them. The interviews also reveal that many artists are considering immigration for more opportunities.

Although Hong Kong has been called the new global hub of Asian contemporary art, there are not enough places for emerging local artists. The artists represented in Hong Kong’s major galleries are mostly blue-chip Chinese artists.

Despite the challenges, many artists choose to stay in Hong Kong, and the city’s local galleries and artists are trying to build their own power. Mak2 (Mak Ying Tung) insisted she won’t leave Hong Kong because it’s her home, and said, “There is a sense of uncertainty, but also an undercurrent of resilience,” while John Batten shared his thoughts that “it is essential for progressive people to stay in Hong Kong.

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