'Yellow shops' self-censoring to avoid breaching new national security law

After the enactment of the national security law in Hong Kong, a “yellow” café in Causeway Bay named No Boundary took down its Lennon Wall stuck with colourful notes bearing protest-linked messages but built another one affixed with empty sticky notes, while other “yellow shops” reacted differently under the impact of the sweeping new law.

Businesses thought to be supportive of protests that have been emerging in the city since last year are dubbed as “yellow shops”, which form the "yellow economic circle". Businesses which are known to be supportive of the establishment or the police are considered “blue”. Pro-establishment supporters are known as being "blue ribbon", as opposed to be "yellow ribbon", which describes pro-democracy supporters.

On Thursday, No Boundary café tore down its original Lennon Wall but demonstrated its creativity to set up a “wordless” Lennon Wall with blank Post-it notes, a decision which was made following a reminder given by other “yellow” restaurant operators.

Lennon Wall also appeared in Hong Kong during the pro-democracy Occupy movement in 2014, when people expressed their opinions by writing on Post-it notes and sticking the notes on the wall in Admiralty. Lennon Wall returned and many of the walls sprung up across the city during the anti-extradition bill movement last year.

Owner of the café, Ivan, admitted that the move is due to the sweeping new national security law. He said he had no clue as to how the police and the government would make use of the new law. “So, I come out with some ways a bit more creative,” Ivan said.

The regime already cannot tolerate the existence of Lennon Walls, according to Ivan, who called such walls the most peaceful form of resistance. He also urged Hongkongers to take time and live long, and not to touch the red line set by the regime.

Ivan believes that, in face of wordless Lennon Walls, Hongkongers can understand the entire matter. “As those who know [the whole thing] see the [blank] sticky notes, [relevant] words in their memory would pop up subsequently,” he said.

According to Ivan, that “yellow shops” removed their Lennon Walls and promotion materials is just an act of self-protection. He said as resistance is not something that spans a year or two, adding that one needs to learn to struggle in a fair manner, as the fight is a long-term one.

Expressing optimism about the “yellow economy circle”, Ivan said, “I don’t know what others would do. But I don’t go and eat at ‘blue restaurants’ for sure.”

Bowl and Plate, another “yellow” restaurant in Shau Kei Wan, was warned by the police on Thursday to to remove its promotional materials on the other hand. According to the police officers who went to the shop in the morning of the day, displaying such promotional materials could breach the new national security law.

Also present at the restaurant earlier on Thursday morning was Gordon Lam Sui-wa, convenor of the Hong Kong Small and Middle Restaurant Federation. Lam said some allegedly "blue ribbon" people nearby kept the restaurant under surveillance when he arrived at the restaurant in the morning to offer assistance. He added he was not sure whether the shop was targeted.

Some “yellow” eateries felt the shock wave stemming from the new law and shunned being openly supportive of the ongoing protest movement. Ice-cream shop Talk 2 DeCream in Tsim Sha Tsui on Tuesday night got rid of its protest-related promotional materials, replacing them with alternative promotion materials bearing slogans written in simplified Chinese characters such as "July 1 as party founding day; toe the party line forever". The owner of the shop said the messages on its original Lennon Wall run the risk of going against the new law, so he made the menu and materials at his shop cater to mainland, a shift to a tailor-made way to send “congratulations” on the implementation of the national security law.

Royaltea by Tea Circle, a “yellow” tea shop in Mong Kok, also removed its protest-related materials bearing Chinese remarks such as "Revenge" before the shop opened on Thursday.

What the owner implied is important “self-censorship”.

Other “yellow” shops were in a defiant mood under the new national security law. Words such as “Hongkongers” in Chinese, “smoke” and “TG”, short for tear gas, can still be found in the names of dishes offered by Japanese restaurant Kappou UO n in Wan Chai, after the new national security law took effect. The owner said he did not intend to change its menu, adding the wording in its menu is not considered promotional.

According to the owner, the implemention of Hong Kong's national security law is not sufficient to wipe out the entire "yellow economic circle". He believed a "yellow shop" is not necessarily one that is fully filled with protest-related materials, adding that people who hold the same values or ideals would understand the stand of a shop that puts up no promotional materials.

Felice, a western restaurant in Causeway Bay, retained its Lennon Wall, with Post-it notes bearing sensitive wording removed and the rest kept. The owner said it would be a great pity if all the sticky notes carrying many people’s opinions were removed. He added he had a discussion with bosses of other "yellow shops" about what should be removed at their shops.

【黃店清文宣】銅鑼灣「No Boundary」起空白連儂牆 店主:唔想被完全滅聲/立場報道
【黃店清文宣】尖沙咀雪糕店改貼簡體文宣苦中作樂 「七一建党日 永遠跟著党走」/立場報道
【黃店清文宣】旺角一芳盡拆連儂牆 「皇茶」改餐單 店主:對政權不滿仲有機會發聲?/立場報道
【黃店清文宣】灣仔 《UO n》:菜單續印「香港加油」 銅鑼灣 《Felice》:留部分連儂牆/立場報道