First page of the strategy guide of Heung Shing Online, with an image of the adaptation of Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People. A protester with a yellow helmet holds a makeshift shield in one arm and waves the Black Bauhinia flag. Designed by pro-democracy protesters, the flag is a powerful symbol of the fight for freedom. The flag bearer is leading other protesters in full gear (helmet, gas mask, shield,  umbrella) to march forward despite poisonous smoke coming out from tear gas canisters on the ground. The night sky is full of smoke, with a hint of a blazing fire in the background. One protester reaches out his arm to help a fallen protester, while a few others hold up an angry fist. There are banners and also road blocks made out of makeshift materials such as orange-coloured barriers, traffic cones, and yellow metal fences that are commonly found in construction sites.
First page of the strategy guide of ‘Heung Shing Online’, with an image of the adaptation of Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People

The story of ‘Heung Shing Online’ is fascinating. It’s a perfect demonstration of how the virtual and physical realms are blurred. The yellow text in the above image reads,

‘Disclaimer: We urge all netizens to be clearheaded. Please distinguish reality from fantasy. Don’t indulge in gaming to excess. This webpage is only for the purpose of gaming, we don’t instigate nor encourage real violent acts nor criminal behaviour. We take no legal responsibility in the usage of the content of this webpage’

On 19 July 2019, one month into the Anti-ELAB movement, a netizen on LIHKG posted about their idea of creating an online game like Sim City, that mimics the street protests in Hong Kong. (LIHKG is an online forum much like reddit. It was highly influential, generating images, slogans, discussions and strategies. I would say LIHKG was the leader of the leaderless movement, especially in the early months.) On the same LIHKG post, they also uploaded a ‘strategy guide’ created with excel.

‘Heung Shing Online’ was never meant to be a real game, only the strategy guide exists. However it was labeled by pro-Beijing media as the ‘Biggest real life RPG (role-playing game)’ that instigates violence against police, the strategy guide as a training manual for frontliners, especially secondary school kids who ‘do not’ have the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.

This image indicates Some of the roles in the 'game', including 'Painter' (to create protest art), 'Sentinel', 'Combat Medic' and 'Keyboard Fighter'. The background colour is yellow with 4 illustrations of a piggy in 4 different attires. This particular piggy ('Li-Pig') is one of the mascots of the protest. As an example, the Combat Medic Li-Pig wears a white helmet with the symbol of the red cross. Illustrations of the different supplies (saline solution, bandage, scissors, gloves, isopropyl alcohol, scissors.. etc) floats around the piggy. The texts underneath the illustration list out in details, the supplies needed and the medic's duties.
Some of the roles in the ‘game’, including ‘Painter’ (to create protest art), ‘Sentinel’, ‘Combat Medic’ and ‘Keyboard Fighter’.

In the following months, netizens continued their discussions of strategies on LIHKG with gaming terminology as if the protest was a real RPG. This was to minimise the risk that one day the posts could be used against these netizens in court.

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