By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
It’s surreal to feel the sting of tear gas at a protest and later go to a gym on the same block. Photographer Laurel Chor lives the strange incongruity of democracy-loving Hong Kong’s slide toward authoritarianism. But she is far from blasé.
“What does it mean for a city to die? How do you mourn the loss of a place in which you are still living?” Laurel writes. And how do you make images that get at these questions?
For Nat Geo, she has tried to show, not tell. In her photo above, a woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial commemorating the death of a pro-democracy protester. One light box reads: “RIP rule of law.”
How do you just watch authoritarian China end the guarantee of democracy until 2047, shaving 27 years off a city’s freedom? How do you live with Beijing discouraging the vital, slangy, irreverent native Cantonese in favor of Mandarin, the primary language of a nation eroding Tibetan culture and jailing a million members of its Muslim minority in its northwest?
The hardest part of the change, Laurel writes, is that residents don’t want to flee. They really love crowded Hong Kong and the green hills above it. Please take a look at these images below—and here's Laurel’s full story.
Freedom: Above, a woman and a man tear up while singing “Glory to Hong Kong,” the protest movement’s anthem, at an event commemorating one year of pro-democracy protests.
Expression: At left, the remnants of posters can still be seen on this former “Lennon Wall”—where thousands of pro-democracy messages once blossomed in a giant show of spontaneous free expression. At right, graffiti of umbrellas—a symbol of pro-democracy movement—are still visible despite attempts to clean them up.
Show of force: Police walk through the YoHo Mall on July 21, the first anniversary of an attack on subway passengers and protesters by masked men. Last year, the police did not appear at the scene for 39 minutes.
Healing? Laurel says Hong Kong residents “lament the disappearance of ‘dai pai dongs’ (street food stalls), ‘si do’ (mom-and-pop stores), and neon signs.” At left, Au Kit-chun poses at the “si do” where she has worked for 31 years after immigrating from the mainland. Having lived through China’s deadly Cultural Revolution, she says she is “more cautious of what I say now. … You don't know if the people around you are your friends or a snitch.” At right, Bryan Ng feels most connected to the city in the relatively sedate section of Sai Kung, where he owns a water sports club. “When I am out at sea, it is the place with the least conflict … the sea has the power to heal."
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Today in a minute
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