Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

In Pictures: Pepe frog and protest pig – Hongkongers bring internet memes to life at protest

Among the sea of faces on Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday were more than one hundred people wearing quirky over-sized animal masks — a band of activists bringing popular protest internet memes to life.

"december 9" pepe frog

Photo: Jimmy Lam/USP.

Hong Kong’s democracy movement is largely leaderless and organised online.

"december 9" aerial civil front

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

LIHKG, a local Reddit-like web forum that serves as a virtual command centre for the movement, is filled with memes and a host of animal cartoon characters that have been embraced by activists.

"december 9" civil front pig

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

The most popular are a cute pig and a shiba inu dog, who often appear dressed in the movement’s ubiquitous yellow tradesman helmets.

"december 8" civil front

Photo: May James/HKFP.

The other is Pepe the Frog, who carries none of the far-right baggage he does in the West, used by Hong Kong protesters as an irreverent symbol of their dissatisfaction with Beijing’s rule.

"december 9" doreamon

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

On Sunday a group of activists joined the crowds wearing colourful Pepe, pig and shiba masks made out of fibreglass, their wobbly heads in stark relief against a vast forest of umbrellas as the crowds marched.

"december 9" pepe frog

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

The stunt was the brainchild of Simon Lau, a former government advisor who has since founded the pro-democracy online radio station Sing Jai.

"december 9" civil front

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

“There is a story of Hong Kong people’s suffering behind every helmet,” Lau told AFP, adding 117 masks had been made in the last ten days.

"december 9" pepe frog

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

“But in the face of police brutality and tyranny, we want Hong Kong people to carry on with humour, confidence and positive thinking,” he added.

pepe december 8 civil front

Photo: May James/HKFP.

 Pepe nurse 

Rony Wong, a surveyor in his thirties, was wearing a Pepe mask with a nurse’s hat on top and said he chose the design because he wanted to thank medical professionals who have been helping those wounded in the protests, often in underground clinics.

victoria park "december 9" aerial civil front

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

“I believe the medical sector is with the Hong Kong people,” he told AFP.

"december 9" pepe frog

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

A furniture shop worker who only gave his surname, Mok, was wearing a black Pepe helmet with “1984” on one eye and the Chinese Communist Party symbol on the other.

"december 9" pepe frog

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

“1984 was the year when the joint declaration was signed,” he said, referring to the treaty between Britain and China that paved the way for Hong Kong’s handover and guaranteed the city would maintain freedoms unseen on the mainland for at least fifty years.

"december 9" civil front pepe

Photo: Chau Ho Man/USP.

Hong Kong’s protests are fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out those liberties.

"december 9" aerial

Photo: Kevin Cheng/USP.

Sirius Tam, a 21-year-old university student, was wearing a Pepe mask with a bag of “Life Bread” sticking out of the mouth.

"december 9" pepe life bread

Photo: Jimmy Lam/USP.

The local bakery brand has also become a symbol for protesters after a police officer was filmed boasting that he and his colleagues could go and eat hotpot across the border in Shenzhen while protesters would have to make do with the simple bread.

"december 9" revolution now flag

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

“What has been stirred up in society the past few months won’t simply fade away if the government refuses to solve the problem of systematic injustice,” he told AFP.

"december 9" civil front

Photo: Kero/USP.

He said protesters like him feared that if they stop hitting the streets, Beijing will only clamp down harder on the city’s remaining freedoms.

“Then what change will we have achieved?” he asked.


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In Pictures: Pepe frog and protest pig - Hongkongers bring internet memes to life at protest