The Brief: Pepe the frog has become a rallying symbol for Hong Kong protestors where its connotation deviates from the American Alt-Right's racist usage of the symbol.
Some of the Hong Kong protestors have been using the imagery of meme figure Pepe The Frog in their signage, graffiti, and online communications. While Pepe has become known as a hate symbol in the United States because of its reclamation by racist and anti-Semitic Alt-Right groups, Pepe does not have the same connotation in Hong Kong.
To many of the people protesting Hong Kong’s extradition bill as well as the police and government’s handling of the protests, Pepe has become representative of their current struggle. Hong Kong protestors have been circulating images of Pepe as a protestor, as a member of the press, and as a first aid worker, depicting him as an ally and supporter of the protestors. According to an article in the New York Times titled “Hong Kong Protesters Love Pepe the Frog. No, They’re Not Alt-Right.,” most Hong Kong protesters were not aware of Pepe’s racist and hateful connotation in the U.S. In this context, Pepe is seen mainly as a symbol of the protestors’ mission, of youth participation in the movement, and of the role that social media and memes are playing in protestor communication.
On Twitter and other social media platforms, some Alt-Right supporters have been applauding this usage 0f Pepe, admiring the anti-establishment spirit. Others have been trying to claim that Pepe’s adoption by Hong Kong protesters means they are supporting the Alt-Right, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.
Protestors graffitied a “Press Pepe” at the Lennon Wall at Hong Kong’s Central Government Office tonight. Civil servants gonna see this in the morning…#HongKongProtests#antiELAB #antiELABhk #Pepe#PressPepe pic.twitter.com/xWxQFWLP5p
— Alex Hofford (@alexhofford) August 18, 2019
Love this Pepe-the-Frog chain at the Shum Shui Po Lennon Wall. Stay tuned with @SCMPNews tonite for the human chain in Hong Kong protests. We connect @AthenaCDaily #HongKongProtests #HK #PepeTheFrog #SSP pic.twitter.com/xJMKfXBwog
— Denise Tsang (@denise_tsang) August 23, 2019