Hong Kong protests immortalized in California desert mural

The mural, painted in California’s Mojave Desert, depicts black-clad protesters shielding from tear gas. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
The mural, painted in California’s Mojave Desert, depicts black-clad protesters shielding from tear gas. Photo: Thirdblade Photography

Scenes of tear gas and protests are long gone from the streets of Hong Kong, but the moments of resistance live on in a black and yellow mural in Liberty Sculpture Park in California’s Mojave Desert.

The artwork, called “Come What May,” was organized by Lion Rock Cafe, a community of New York-based supporters of the Hong Kong democracy movement. (According to its website, it has “no fixed location and brews no coffee,” but aims to provide a platform for current affairs discussion.)

A Hong Kong artist who identified as “Divad” designed the mural, an illustration of black-clad protesters crouched under yellow umbrellas in a cloud of tear gas.

LRC Mural Project
A message from Hong Kong artist “Divad” on the side of the mural. Photo: Thirdblade Photography

“We hope that one day, Divad can stand out and be proud of his art without the fear of political prosecution in Hong Kong,” the Lion Rock Cafe wrote in a Facebook post.

Australian mural artist Damien Mitchell is outlining the design on the wall. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
Australian mural artist Damien Mitchell outlining the design on the wall. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
Mitchell is painting in the Liberty Sculpture Park in Mojave Desert. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
Mitchell painting in the Liberty Sculpture Park in the Mojave Desert. Photo: Thirdblade Photography

Lion Rock Cafe started a crowdfunding campaign for the mural project on Kickstarter in November 2019. After a year and a half of scouting for an exhibition location, collaborating with artists and constructing the wall, the mural was completed in the park on April 7 in collaboration with non-profit group Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles (HKFLA). Australian mural artist Damien Mitchell flew to California to paint it.

Mitchell is painting the gas masks of protesters in yellow helmets. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
Mitchell painting a protester’s gas mask. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
The yellow umbrella is a protest symbol in the anti-government movements. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
The yellow umbrella is one of the city’s protest movement’s most iconic symbols. Photo: Thirdblade Photography

The colorful mural is a new addition to Liberty Sculpture Park, home to the Six Four Monument commemorating 1989 Tiananmen victims in Beijing. 

According to The Art Newspaper, the park, which exhibits other Hong Kong protest-related tributes, is a memorial for democracy fighters.

A helper of the mural project taking a rest under the strong sun in the desert. Photo: Thirdblade Photography
A helper taking a rest under the strong desert sun. Photo: Thirdblade Photography

Located in the middle of California’s largest desert, the vibrant artworks give highway drivers a break from miles of monotonous desert plains. 

Since the anti-government movement began in the summer of 2019, Hongkongers living abroad have been actively showing support for the cause back home, holding rallies and raising awareness about the city’s erosion of freedoms in the hands of Beijing.

Last month, activists in exile launched the “Hong Kong Charter,” a manifesto of sorts outlining a pledge to “stand against the oppression from the Chinese Communist Party [and] strive for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.”

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