26 September 2023
Just in case

Just in case: ‘Banner prohibition’ seen on fence in Hong Kong has been around since 2014

Photos of a banner circulating on social media attract comments about government overreach in Hong Kong’s political environment since last year. The banner is seven years old, however.

Banner in Hong Kong prohibiting hanging of banners

Photos of a banner in Hong Kong that says “Posting or hanging of any banners is prohibited” are circulating on social media, including this post on Twitter from Feb. 7, 2021, and a discussion on Reddit, which was prompted by another tweet by a journalist on April 21.

Together, they had more than 1,200 likes, hundreds of retweets and more than 100 comments.

Some comments are clearly in a humorous vein, but others allude to darker sentiments about government suppression and restrictions on freedom in the city, with references to the National Security Law (NSL) that came into effect on June 30, 2020.

The law prohibits “acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.”

However, the banner posted near the Golden Bauhinia Square at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai predates the passage of the NSL.

Photo of banner in Hong Kong prohibiting the posting of banners
A photo of the banner taken on Feb. 9. (Annie Lab photo/Robin Hibberd)

The management company that erected the banner in 2014, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management) Limited, told Annie Lab in an email on Feb. 10 that they are responsible for general cleaning and security in the area.

“Prohibition of posting or hanging of banners is for cleanliness and aesthetics purpose,” the company said.

An old tweet posted on Nov. 1, 2014, in fact, shows the same banner at the same location. It was the year a series of sit-in street protests known as the Umbrella Movement took place in Hong Kong.

Political slogans and posters were seen hanging in many places in the city and Annie Lab cannot confirm that the reason for the banner prohibition was not political then.

Golden Bauhinia Square, where the banner is located, is the site of regular national flag-raising ceremonies as well as the location of a monument to the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China. The exhibition center is owned by the government.

Interest in the banner is also in the tradition of the “Post no bills” meme, a meme that has circulated in Western and Hong Kong culture for decades.

While the meme is often seen as ironic humor, it does sometimes appear in the context of resistance against authority.

Past references to “Post no bills” in contemporary culture include the line “There’s a country’s soul that says post no bills” in the revolutionary-themed 2000 song “Calm like a Bomb” by U.S. rock band Rage Against the Machine.

Post no bill photo
Screenshot of bilingual “Post no bill” sign (Alamy stock photo)