Lennon Walls ‘imagine’ a new Hong Kong

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | A small group of young Hong Kongers brought three movable “Lennon Walls” to Union Square on Sat., Aug. 25. 

The group has been carrying the portable freestanding cardboard structures across the city, so that people can leave yellow, pink and green post-it notes of support for protesting Hong Kongers.

The first wall was created by Wilson Tsui, a 23-year-old Hong Konger, four weeks ago. After telling friends on social media about his plan to create more of the movable so-called “Lennon Walls,” two more were made and have been set up temporarily in Washington Square Park, Bryant Park and Times Square, and might make their way to Central Park next. 

A tiny Hong Kong flag sits on one of the three freestanding cardboard Lennon Walls that were set up in Union Square over the weekend to offer space for Hong Kongers and allies to offer support for protesters in the semiautonomous territory. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“It’s safer,” said Matthew Yu, 24, a co-creator of the walls. A Lennon Wall made on a plywood construction fence on Grand St. in Chinatown about two weeks has been defaced multiple times. Just the other day, red spray paint was used to write the words “F— H K Roach!” on the wall.

The Lennon Wall on Grand St. has been defaced nearly half a dozen times. Now huge words in red spray paint cover the wall. (Photo courtesy of passerby).

Post-it notes have been another tool for concerned Hong Kongers to express their thoughts over a proposed extradition bill. Thousands of notes have lined walls across Hong Kong. The trend started with when a section of a concrete staircase near a government building became covered in brightly colored post-its during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, according to Quartz.

The name for that wall was appropriated from the Lennon Wall in Prague, which became a spot for Czechs to express political thoughts through Beatles lyrics and graffiti.

But the intent of the movable Lennon Walls in New York City is also to unite the international community with Hong Kongers.

“Our purpose is to let the world know what is happening in Hong Kong,” Yu said. Besides the post-its, the walls also feature photographs of clashes during protests in the semiautonomous territory, information on excessive use of force by Hong Kong police on protesters, signs stating “S.O.S.,” and fliers about a petition to support the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Photographs of protests in Hong Kong festoon the movable Lennon Walls, along with messages of support on post-its. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Under the congressional act, proposed as a bill in 2017, in order for Hong Kong to keep special trade status with the United States, the U.S. secretary of state would need to issue a certificate of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The legislation would allow the U.S. president to deny entry to America and freeze U.S.-based assets of individuals deemed responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong and/or for being involved in the abduction of Hong Kong journalists and booksellers, according to a press release.

Photos of Hong Kong protests cover the portable Lennon Walls, along with post-its. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“We know that they may not be able to do a lot,” C. Au, a 25-year-old Hong Konger who helped set up the portable walls at Union Square, said of the international community. “But even their attention might help the Hong Kong government not be too excessive.”