Secondary school students raise their phone torches as they sing 'Do You Hear the People Sing' from 'Les Miserables' while attending a rally at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong on August 22, 2019. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

HONG KONG, – As a tattooist’s black ink fills the petals of Hong Kong’s Bauhinia flower on her upper thigh, ‘C’ says the indelible act of rebellion will forever serve as a reminder of the city’s summer of defiance.

“No matter how many years pass, I’ll remember this year; I decided to stand up to fight for my freedom and to fight for what I really care about,” said the finance worker who asked to be identified only by an initial.

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From umbrellas and Chinese calligraphy, to gas masks and helmets, people are getting their bodies inked as a sign of solidarity with a protest movement challenging the city’s government and its Beijing backers.

The Bauhinia flower is the emblem of Hong Kong and normally coloured red, but is represented in black in C’s tattoo as a mark of the troubles clouding the city.

The five stars on the flower’s petals, which usually represent China and its ruling Communist Party, are also missing — a move commonly made by Hong Kongers who want to separate their identity from the mainland.

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Since June when the largest protests to hit Hong Kong in decades erupted, tattoo studios have received a surge in requests for protest-related artworks.

They include a so-called ambigram that from one angle reads “Hong Kong” and from another “add oil” — a Cantonese expression of encouragement which has become one of the catchphrases of the unrest.

“Tattooing is an action to show that you have control over your own body,” said Iris Lam, a 28-year-old tattooist recognised for her calligraphy-like style.

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“It helps people think about freedom of speech and even freedom of thought.”

One of Lam’s clients, a 40-year-old protester, had requested a full sleeve tattoo depicting scenes of Hong Kong’s demonstrations but decided to hold off until the protests are over.(AFP)



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