I first met the Wang Chau villagers in February 2017 during an action in a commercial district in Hong Kong. Wang Chau is a village in the New Territories with 200 households, 500 villagers and pets, surrounded by trees and small farms and gardens. During these past three years, I have learned details about the colonial residue and the Indigenous and non-Indigenous dichotomy that has led to the dispossession of the villagers’ homes and the ongoing destruction of the green belt village.
“Wang Chau Village: (Non-)Indigenous Wisdom, Amidst Eviction,” available for download on the next slide, is a paper written for the Association for Asian Studies conference (September 2020), which was presented in a panel with anthropologists focusing on land and sea practices and food sovereignty. Since starting my PhD in 2018, I have shared bilingual texts freely online and through zines—available at zine fairs and for free. The zine format allows a more intimate reading experience and becomes a tangible object that can be gifted to others, self-organised libraries, archives, and so on.
Michael Leung, quote from Wang Chau Village zine, 2020. This is a quote from the zine, typed up similarly to past and current policies imposed by the former British colonial government in Hong Kong.
When I first joined a tour of Wang Chau in 2017, I saw a monochrome village map that loosely looked like a metro subway map, showing different places in the village such as Wong Bak’s village well and the Fung Chi Village entrance. I kindly offered to do a painting of the village for the 2017 Wang Chau Jackfruit Festival. In the following three festivals, with villagers and members of the concern group, I updated the map to its latest 2020 iteration—which is unfortunately likely to be the last amidst the eviction. However, Ms Cheng told me last week, that perhaps we can replant some Wang Chau jackfruit trees in other places and have the next jackfruit festivals elsewhere.
This painting depicts an imaginary clothes line with four different garments. From the left to right, they are: a sleeveless shirt worn by village protectors in 1899, when anti-imperial villagers threatened to attack villages, who refused to join the war against the British colonial government (壮勇 Strong and Brave); a white T-shirt hand painted by villagers early in the movement (冤 Injustice), a T-shirt gifted to me from the Wang Chau Green Belt Concern Group (不遷不拆 誓保家園 No Eviction No Demolition, We Swear to Protect Our Home); and a poncho worn by land protectors at the ZAD (Zone à Défendre, Zone to Defend) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, resisting the construction of an airport and its world (ZAD Partout, ZADs Everywhere).
土地是家不是商品! (The land is our home and not a commodity!) is composed on top of a photograph of a faded and weathered banner in Wing Ning Village, Wang Chau. The sheet metal fencing surrounds a green belt area that has been acquired by New World Development Company Limited in Wing Ning Village. The original photograph was taken on 3 May 2017. The calligraphy was added on 14 November 2020. At present there are eleven villages facing dispossession in Hong Kong. Hopefully the message on this banner can be helpful in some way and connect villagers from different land struggles together.