Boris Tsang/Sun Photography Editor

Posters supportive of Hong Kong protestors have been removed or desecrated, students allege.

October 8, 2019

Claims of Vandalized Pro-Hong Kong Posters Bring Overseas Tensions to Cornell

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On Sept. 30, Kinen Kao ’22 posted sticky notes on the footbridge between Collegetown and the Engineering Quad, taping them over with packaging tape. The sticky notes — with one letter emblazoned per note — spelled out, “Stand With Hong Kong, Fight For Freedom.”

Sticky notes spelled out messages in support of the faraway protests.

Messages taped to footbridges supported protestors.

The next day, just the sticky notes that read “Stand With Hong Kong” were missing. Another poster, which Kao had printed and affixed on a lamppost on Thurston Avenue, was also partially torn — the words referring to Hong Kong had been ripped off. Many pro-Hong Kong posters across campus — hand-taped to bus stops, lampposts and buildings — were completely gone, Kao said.

On Oct. 1, Kao returned to the bridge to repost his message for the second time. On the other side of the globe, police in Hong Kong shot a teenage protester with a live round — the first live shot since the protests began — as the People’s Republic of China celebrated 70 years since its founding.

Kao hails from Hong Kong himself, and said that pasting the signs, which read “Will You Stand With Hong Kong In The Fight For Freedom,” and “End The Tyranny, Fight For Autonomy,” were his way of contributing to a protest he wanted to be part of.

“I feel helpless here,” Kao said.

Pasting the messages was a way to inform people of the conflicts over 8,000 miles away in Hong Kong — the contribution he felt he could make, the atmospheric sciences major said. Since June, people have taken to the streets in Hong Kong — beginning as peaceful rallies criticizing a proposed bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China, but more recently turning intermittently violent as police have cracked down on the demonstrations, The New York Times reported.

But where did the posters go?

Posters around Cornell's campus have been partially torn.

Courtesy of Kinan Kao '22

Posters around Cornell’s campus have been torn.

Snapchat screenshots from Oct. 1, later posted to Reddit, showed a college-aged gaggle, clustered together on a footbridge in front of sticky notes, pulling at one of the notes. Other students and Redditors also claimed to have seen students removing the pro-Hong Kong posters elsewhere.

Kao speculated that some students critical of the protests might have removed the posters. He said that he’d taped them vigorously enough to withstand rain, at least for a few days, and noted that other posters and stickers remained in place — while he said his continued to go missing.

According to Kao’s count as of Monday night, around 80 of his near-100 posters had been removed since he began. Vulgar messages were inked in marker next to his sticky notes, and Kao said he put up his homemade message on the footbridge eight times within nine days.

Kao said that the ritual of replastering the messages reminded him of a saying from home.

“You tear one,” Kao said, “we’ll put 100 up.”