The “Hong Kong: The Unspoken” exposition was hosted by community members in Downtown Berkeley on Sunday to educate the public on the current political crisis in Hong Kong.
For the past several months, citizens of Hong Kong have been protesting the Chinese government’s interference with their Basic Law, which guarantees freedoms, including freedom of the press, speech and protest. The event had a collection of writings, visuals and interactive exhibits, as well as personal stories from freedom fighters in Hong Kong. The event was advertised across the Bay Area and several hundred people were estimated to attend including UC Berkeley students and community members.
The event was meant to help inform people and offer attendees an alternate means of learning about the political events happening in Hong Kong beyond mainstream media, according to multiple volunteers.
“This is a nice way to cater to an international audience because if you just Google it there’s so much information out there it is very overwhelming,” said Elena Kwong, a volunteer for Conversations with the Courageous which was one of the organizations that helped to organize the event.
Victor Kwok, UC Berkeley alumni and volunteer at the event, added that the news carries its own biases. Many of the volunteers know people involved in the Hong Kong protests and wanted to share their experience with the community.
Beyond simply informing the public, the exposition was meant to evoke empathy and personal connection according to Kwong. Exhibits such as a virtual reality experience room and opportunities to talk to people directly involved with the protests attempted to appeal to attendees.
“You are hearing it from Hong Kongers themselves, some of whom have actually been involved with the movement over the past months,” Kwong said. “So you’re not only getting information, you’re also hearing stories about personal experiences and that seems to work a lot better in terms of a call to action and getting people emotionally invested in the cause.”
Another interactive aspect of the exposition was video games, which were based on the daily lives of Hong Kongers and the consequences of their choices to participate, or not participate, in the protests.
“It’s really geared towards not just delivering information but also really tapping into the human connection, empathy, things like that,” Kwong said.
The exposition also provided an opportunity for the public to take action. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act has already passed through the U.S. House of Representatives and is moving on to the Senate. A portion of the exposition was designated for writing letters to senators and sending postcards to Hong Kong to show support.
The volunteers at the exposition wore masks in solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong, who wear them out of fear of government surveillance, according to signs posted at the event. The sign also indicated that masks are meant to help emphasize the leaderless nature of the movement.
It took about a month and a half to organize the event and three days to set up the exhibit. A follow-up is not certain, according to Kwong, but they intend to recycle their materials in some form.
“This is not meant to be an end all be all,” Kwong said. “If (attendees) walk away with some interest in what’s going on and continue to follow the news and hopefully want to take action in some way to support the movement … we are really trying to use word of mouth and that person to person connection to mobilize support globally.”