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Pansies planted around Hong Kong to raise awareness of gay hate

Pansies planted around Hong Kong to raise awareness of gay hate

If you happen to be walking through the streets of Hong Kong this week and come by a pretty pansy, it might be marking a place where a homophobic attack took place.

London, New York, Istanbul, Berlin and Pretoria are just some examples of dozens of cities where pink and purple pansies can be found marking scenes of gay hate.

Paul Harfleet, British street artist, started to plant flowers in 2005 at specific locations where homophobic abuses took place in Manchester.

‘I find the nearest source of soil to where the incident occurs and generally without civic permission plant one unmarked pansy,’ Harfleet said.

After planting the pansy Harfleet takes a picture of the flower and shares it on the The Pansy Project website.

The project is now moving to Hong Kong as part of Harfleet’s global campaign to raise awareness of homophobia. The Hong Kong organizer, Henness Wong Hing-garm, has so far been planting pansies himself and mostly chooses sites nearby government institutions. 

While in Britain pansies are planted in places related to mostly verbal homophobic violence, in Hong Kong things happen differently. In the independent region of Hong Kong homophobia is often seen as institutional and cultural.  

‘Though in whatever form homophobia appears it is always pervasive and damaging as it affects gay people in troubling ways,’ Harfleet said.

The artist is unable to personally go to Hong Kong to plant pansies but victims of homophobia will, together with the Hong Kong organizer, plant flowers at the chosen sites. The confirmed sites of planting so far are the Legislation Council, High Court and a hospital.

Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, city’s first openly gay legislator, will plant a flower outside the government headquarters to make a statement against homophobia.

Harfleet is disappointed that he can’t go to Hong Kong but he hopes to visit the city in the near future to find out more about gay culture in the region.

‘I’m hoping that this initial exhibition leads to an opportunity for me to come to Hong Kong and learn more about the culture and explore the personal stories of homophobia,’ he said.

Homosexuality is legal in Hong Kong and tolerance for the LGBTI community is increasing. However, there are no laws against discrimination or homophobia and no legal recognition of same sex-couples.

Pictures of the pansies will be shown in Sau Wa alley in Wan Chai from 13 to 15 December as part of the Micro Galleries exhibition.