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Online Comic Inspired by Hong Kong's Fight for Democracy

By Contributed content 9 February 2015
Erik Thurman is a comics journalist and educator who travels throughout the world for his work, but currently calls a tiny, impersonal apartment in Seoul, South Korea, home. His hobbies include hiking, drinking coffee, and fighting corruption. Visit his recent comics journalism of Hong Kong and other locations at Medium, on The Nib, or his website. A roaring city of piercing blue skyscrapers and financial markets that break the skies of Southern China, serving as a major hub for progress all throughout East Asia and the world. What better introduction into a city with such a profound history of independence than to see the Fragrant Harbour’s streets filled with tents and students chanting for autonomy during last year's Umbrella Revolution?

One of the major reasons I came to Hong Kong last October was to witness the development of the ever-growing youth movements throughout the world since the global financial crisis in 2009. But what especially interested me was that, unlike many Occupy protests throughout the world during this time, Hong Kong’s was unusually tranquil. Even for East Asian protests, the lack of police presence in uniform was utterly baffling to myself, even more so in face of China’s unwavering virtue of seeking stability and order.

And that’s what inspired me to look into how the Umbrella Movement was being policed, beyond what was happening on the ground at the occupied sites. I favor working with journalism in comic form because of its inherit ability to convey a plethora of information visually that would be otherwise too heavy for traditional prose. Also, unlike in film or photography, I can choose the precise moment that a tear gas canister is shot, or when an arrest is made, and even recreate images that couldn’t be taken when the use of a camera is forbidden. My recent comics journalism, Umbrella Blackout: China’s War on Digital Activism, tries to use the advantages in this medium to help inform activists and protesters, not just in Hong Kong, but throughout the world, the dangers of digital violence against their persons when they speak out against authority. Image Courtesy of Erik Thurman

I’ll never forget meeting children as young as 12 voicing their concerns on steps of Admiralty, the open lectures taking place in Causeway Bay, and the exciting nature of camaraderie that took place in Mong Kok. And most inspiring, is seeing this movement not waning in light of the formal occupied movement ending.

I like to especially give thanks to the help from various activists in Hong Kong, especially S.L., who introduced me to people from all walks of life during the Umbrella Movement, to make my work possible with my interviews. Get the full comic, Umbrella Blackout: China’s War on Digital Activism.

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