Hong Kong’s Protest of Enchantment

How the soft power of the democracy movement is still alive  – Antony Dapiran

Based on extracts from City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong 

Hong Kong can feel at times like a disenchanted city.

The protests of 2019 drew upon a deep-seated malaise, bringing onto the streets people who felt they were stuck with a leader they hadn’t chosen, running a government that didn’t listen to them, in a city whose housing they could not afford, and with wages and an economy that were going nowhere. During the course of 2020, the new National Security Law coupled with an ongoing crackdown by the authorities has left the population even more dispirited. Many with the means or the qualifications are actively exploring options for emigration. Others despair at what the future might hold for them – or their children.

It is hard to love a disenchanted city. Disenchantment breeds cynicism, and creates an emotional detachment from the community. Yet there is a solution to this state in which Hong Kong finds itself.



Hong Kong: Shock Therapy

Antony Dapiran reviews Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong, edited by Holmes Chan

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.” – Frank Kafka, The Trial

Hong Kongers may feel they have good cause to invoke the name of Franz Kafka. They are becoming accustomed to the arbitrary exercise of state power in illogical and often absurd ways that would make even Kafka blush.

Since the imposition of the National Security Law on 30 June, Hong Kong has at times seemed to be descending inexorably into the Kafkaesque: teenagers arrested for their Facebook posts; people arrested for possessing wearing t-shirts or possessing flags that bear “illegal” slogans; police demanding that pro-democracy restaurants and stores tear down their Lennon Walls; songs banned in schools; Hong Kong police declaring that half a dozen people overseas are wanted under the new law (including activist Samuel Chu, a US citizen in the US apparently accused of the crime of lobbying his own government); Beijing’s leading official in Hong Kong warning that patriotism is “not a choice, but an obligation.”

Yet it is another aspect of Kafka that springs to mind on reading Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong, a collection of essays reflecting on the events of 2019 by the city’s leading young journalists writing in English.