A girl at the heart of Hong Kong’s democracy movement. Two years since her arrest made her an accidental superhero of the Umbrella Movement, the infamous ‘Chalk Girl’, now 16, must decide whether to rejoin the battle for Hong Kong’s democracy alongside the localist movement. As elections loom. Chalk Girl is torn between wanting to respect her family, who are concerned about the risks of her activism, and her determination to stand against Beijing’s interference. These young localists see this as a fight to save their beloved city, and in the middle of it all, Chalk Girl is just a young girl wanting to feel part of something bigger, and a long way from grown-up.
In 2014, then a 14 year old school-girl, she was arrested for drawing a chalk flower on a wall where thousands created protest artworks of hope. It was the end of the youth-led Umbrella Revolution where tens of thousands occupied downtown HK. She was hauled into detention, removed from her father’s care, and only released when international outrage began to cause embarrassment. As a minor her face was shielded in the press, but her image in cartoon form became synonymous with the fight for democracy. The world dubbed her ‘Chalk Girl’.
Now 16, she remains masked and scarred from the damage done to her life and her family, but her generation of so-called ‘Umbrella soldiers’ now face a new fight. Trouble is brewing as the city gears up for the first elections since Umbrella, and this new generation of young Localists will be moving from front-line street battles to stand in mainstream politics. Continued government suppression has caused youth anger to grow and inspired the creation of the so-called ‘Localist’ movement, controversial groups determined to defend Hong Kong’s culture and autonomy from a creeping Mainland Chinese dominance.
What does it mean to be an accidental superhero and a teenage girl at the heart of Hong Kong’s movement for autonomy, as the city’s youth mobilise to challenge China’s influence on the territory?
Commissioned by the Guardian and Bertha Foundation