Grace Jackson reviews Bullets and Opium by Liao Yiwu
“Thugs” was how Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo described demonstrators who gathered in historic numbers on June 9 to protest against a bill that would allow for extradition to China, at the outset of a wave of protests that have roiled the city ever since. That word is one of several threads connecting Hong Kong in 2019 to Beijing thirty years earlier. Prior to this year, the last time Hong Kongers took to the streets in such numbers was in solidarity with the student protestors who gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In the aftermath of that democracy movement in Beijing, “thugs” (baotu 暴徒) became a buzzword too. It was the PRC government’s designation for all non-student protestors: the workers, shopkeepers and bystanders who felt compelled to put their bodies between soldiers and students.