Giant Rubber Duck News: Power to the People

June 21, 2013

In May, we told you about a public art event very close to our hearts here at the BRI: Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s unveiling of a 54-foot-tall giant rubber duck in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor. It looks just like the rubber ducky seen on the covers of all of our books…only much, much bigger. On June 4, 2013, the duck made news in China—and around the world—again.

June 4th is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In 1989, thousands of protestors occupied Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, protesting China’s Communist government. The government responded by sending in 300,000 troops to quell the protests. Six thousand protestors were killed. The tragedy spawned a lasting, powerful image: a single, Chinese man, standing in front of a row of tanks.

In China, publicly commemorating the massacre (officially known as “The June 4th Incident”) is forbidden, so many people protest online. But criticizing the government online is also illegal in China. So what do protesters do? This year they made pictures.

Giant Rubber Duck ChinaOne person recreated the famous photo (the original of which is illegal to distribute in China) entirely with Lego blocks. Another person doctored the photo and replaced the tanks with images of the Giant Floating Duck.

Once the Internet-regulating authorities figured out what was going on, the Giant Floating Duck-as-tank photo was banned. Nevertheless, the duck is now a symbol of quiet protest in China.

The real duck, fully inflated, is scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh in September.