Hong Kong art lovers rescue works from protest site

HONG KONG (AFP) - Art lovers will make a last-ditch rescue bid to save the works which have come to define the creative energy of Hong Kong's main pro-democracy protest site late Wednesday, ahead of a police clearance.

From posters depicting the city's leaders as vampires and gangsters to sculptures, tongue-in-cheek shrines and Lego re-enactments - the camp in Admiralty, central Hong Kong has seen new artworks created daily through more than two months of rallies calling for fully free leadership elections.

As bailiffs and police prepare to clear the site from Thursday morning, those who do not want the works to be trampled and destroyed are carrying out an eleventh-hour mercy dash to save them.

Two volunteer groups have said they will remove some of the works Wednesday night, with the creators' prior agreement, and put them into storage with hopes that one day they will be displayed again to the public.

"We had never seen large-scale political art like this before in Hong Kong... it's a very unique aspect to the protest," said Meaghan McGurgan of the Umbrella Movement Art Preservation group, who said she would remove 10 artworks in a truck after being asked to save them by the artists who made them.

"This is Hong Kong and this is the pure essence of Hong Kong," she said of the creative protest.

"I am an American. We protest a lot in America. But the thing is we set cars on fire," she added.

Another group will also be taking items into storage to protect them late Wednesday.

"They will end up in landfills otherwise so if people want to keep them, we want to help," said Sampson Wong, of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives and Research Collective.

"We will keep them temporarily in our storage and then plan what's next... for now, we want to prevent them from being damaged," added Wong, a politics lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

He said that he hoped they would be given to libraries or that the items can be exhibited in the future.

One of the most famous works, "Umbrella Man" - a large wooden sculpture of a figure holding up an umbrella, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement - is already in safe hands, said McGurgan, as it has been taken to a Hong Kong art school for repair.

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