Project Detail: Hong Kong Protests


Reportage and Documentary 2020




Alexander Haslam


Project Info

Hong Kong Protests

A photo study which presents an alternative perspective on the protests which shook Hong Kong in 2019.

Much of the world has spent 18 months or so following the extraordinary protests and its consequences in Hong Kong. Originally the protests erupted in response to a proposed amendment to Hong Kong’s colonial era extradition laws; however, they quickly evolved into a more amorphous expression of violence; largely portrayed as a cry for democracy and, at its extreme, separation from China. While clearly China and democracy had their place in the protests, I believe, at their core, the protests were more an expression of frustration about an altogether more home-grown and, by now, familiar story: a societal wide ennui at an ever-growing income gap, a lack of social mobility and an abject failure of a political process to identify and alleviate its consequences.

Hong Kong has one of the largest income gaps in the world. Beyond the muscular and proud skyline of Victoria Harbour, with its cobalt waters and the twinkling allure of promise and prosperity, lies a silent majority for whom life represents a 7 day-a-week grind to merely keep afloat. Wonder around any of Kowloon’s northern suburbs – a world away from the seductive glamour of Hong Kong Island - and one can see writ large a life defined by a daily struggle to make ends meet; the caustic entropy of simply keeping things afloat.
It is by spending time in these less visited parts of Hong Kong that one can gradually build a picture of the frustration and anger that simmered for years beneath the surface, disgorging momentarily in 2014, before erupting definitively in 2019 with the geopolitical consequences we witness at play today.

Hong Kong’s inequality, as extreme and prevalent as it is across the entire population (around 18% of Hong Kong’s population lives below the poverty line), disproportionately impacts our female population. A 2017 census highlighted that there were 80,800 men earning less than HK$6,600 a month (approximately $850) but a staggering 451,700 women. HK$4,000 (US$515) a month represents the poverty line in Hong Kong.

Spend time in Kowloon and all around you will see the privation in her eyes as she struggles to advance, struggles to provide, struggles to survive. Her’s is not a life of progress, of belief or hope. It is a life of anxiety, frustration and, increasingly, exhausted resignation.