September 28, 2014

"Hands Up, Don't Shoot," Hong Kong Edition

Recovering from Photoville, I just have a brief thought about the Hong Kong version of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as thousands of tweets yesterday were drawing a connection between Ferguson and the “Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.” I don’t have any doubt the latter was inspired by the former. At the same time, however, I don’t see the translation running very deep.

As exercised by African-Americans, the expression is deeply ironic and all about racism. The hands in the air (as I wrote about from the get-go) expresses the fact that even in the act of total submission, given the cop and the zip code, it won’t save your life. From the photos I’ve seen, the youth in Hong Kong are deploying the gesture in a less complicated way. Yes, the message speaks to their subjugation by the Chinese. In this case, though, both the circumstances and the more confrontative posture and gaze seems to function more as an act of defiance and empowerment. There’s actually some evidence of this right in the photo retweeted thousands of times yesterday. You might need to click to expand, but it sure looks like the kid in the purple scarf (in the right third of the shot) is flipping the bird.

(photo: Alex Ogle/Getty)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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