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New Exhibition Reveals The Fight for Human Rights

By Sophie Pettit 2 December 2015
Universal suffrage, LGBT rights, the plight of refugees, and the Umbrella Movement are just some of the issues being addressed in this year's Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize Exhibition, which returns to the city this weekend. After inviting locals artists to submit entries on the theme of "human rights" earlier this year, non-profit human rights organisation, Justice Centre Hong Kong, received over one hundred entries. Only nineteen have been shortlisted for the Prize and will appear in the free exhibition that opens to the public today at Fringe Club. The shortlist features works in a variety of media from artists in both Hong Kong and countries as diverse as Belgium, Spain, Canada, and mainland China. While artworks inspired by the Umbrella Revolution dominate the collection, other themes include homelessness, forced labour, ethnic minorities, and LGBT rights. [caption id="attachment_42723" align="aligncenter" width="600"]straight Playing it Straight by Rhody Chan, Shawn Griffin and Leslie Montgomery.[/caption] Rhody Chan, whose photograph Playing it Straight made the shortlist for this year's Prize, tells Localiiz, “With an estimated population of 700,000 LGBT persons, the Hong Kong community is constantly struggling with rights acceptance for nearly 10% of their population." Meanwhile photographer Rebecca Benians brings to light the growing concern of homelessness in her touching shot entitled, Why? Empathising with her subject, she raises the question, “The world passes me by every fleeting moment as I contemplate, if it's time for hope tomorrow, yet?" [caption id="attachment_42724" align="aligncenter" width="600"]why Why? by Rebecca Benians[/caption] Now in it's third year, the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize has gained recognition on both a local and international scale, receiving more entries each year and drawing attention to issues that often go under-reported. Previous winner of the Prize, Xyza Cruz Bacani, a former domestic worker from the Philippines, was awarded the Justice Centre Choice Award last year for her photograph BURN, which depicts a domestic worker whose back was burnt after a pan of soup fell on her, and was denied medical attention by her employer.  Bacani tells us her life has “turned 180 degrees” since winning the award, not only was she recently named one of BBC’s 100 Women of 2015, she also left her employment as a domestic worker and has worked on photography projects she cares about. This year she was awarded a Hamdan International Photography Award in Dubai, and travelled to New York after being offered a Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellowship to study at New York University. [caption id="attachment_42725" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Xyza-Bacani-BURN-1-1024x683 BURN by Xyza Bacani[/caption] To Bacani, the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize is an important platform for bringing to light issues that are under-reported and unknown within our society. “Through this Prize I could plant seeds of awareness among the public, so they can’t ignore the abuse that happens behind closed doors," she tells Localiiz. "By raising awareness, slowly we can bring about change. I would encourage artists to enter the Prize as it is a way of focusing on the issues they care about, and making them mainstream." This year's entries will be judged by an eminent panel of prominent art experts and human rights specialists, and the winner will be awarded $30,000 to support their work. The shortlisted artwork will be sold at a charity auction on International Human Rights Day, which falls on December 10. The funds raised from the auction will go towards helping Justice Centre Hong Kong protect the rights of refugees and survivors of human trafficking. Until then, they will be on display for the public to view. Catch the free exhibition at Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, which runs from December 4 to 10 (opening hours are 10am - 10pm, closed on Sundays). You can also follow Justice Centre Hong Kong on Facebook.
Read more! Take a deeper look into some of the issue surrounding human rights in Hong Kong such as The Hidden Scars of Poverty in Hong Kong, The Beauty of Reality, and "I'm Livin' It", Homeless Under the Golden Arches.

Sophie Pettit


Sophie is always on the lookout for a great story and her next big adventure and loves nothing more than discovering the city’s hidden gems—and most delicious cocktails. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s off travelling and ticking countries off her bucket list.