A Further Procrastination

In which momentum is maintained

Dear friends,

For those of you who are receiving this for the first time: this is A Procrastination. I write about Hong Kong and Greater China politics, business and culture, and am writing a book on the ongoing Hong Kong protest movement to be titled City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong which will be published by Scribe next year. But, instead of doing either of those things right now, I am writing this email update from Hong Kong. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking on the “Unsubscribe” link at the footer of this email.

HK Update: “Resist” & “Persist”

Last Sunday I wrote that Lam’s “curfew by private capital” seemed to have acted as something of a circuit-breaker for the weekly cycle of protests. This week the circuit was reconnected.

Monday night saw tens of thousands of mainly white-collar office workers gather at a rally in Central to express support for US Congress passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Sunday saw another huge protest march (again banned by police), this time starting in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, promoted with the slogans “Resist” 反抗 and “Persist” 堅持. Nathan Road was thronged with tens of thousands of protesters chanting, “Hong Kongers, resist!” 香港人反抗 — which has replaced the previous “Go, Hong Kongers!” 香港人加油 as slogan of choice.

Events took their usual turn towards violent clashes by mid-afternoon (tear gas at 3:30pm, water cannon at 4pm).

Protesters targeted Beijing-affiliated businesses for vandalism, including branches of the state-owned banks Bank of China, ICBC and China Construction Bank, the state-owned Chung Hwa Books and Beijing Tong Ren Tang traditional Chinese medicine shop all trashed. The Xiao Mi mobile phone store in Mong Kok was set ablaze. Similar vandalism occurred at the protests in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay two weeks ago. Are we heading towards a point where certain districts of Hong Kong become “no-go areas” for Mainland businesses?

It is in this context that quite a few conversations I have had over the past week have raised the spectre of the “Belfastisation” of Hong Kong. Among the various euphemisms for the ongoing protests — “disruptions”, “disturbances”, “unrest” — one person told me they had recently caught themselves inadvertently using the word “Troubles”. When I look at the growing nationalist sentiment, the complete breakdown in institutional trust, and the increasing violence, I can’t help but conclude that we are on a similar continuum, leading down a frightening path.

Clippings & Media

It was a pleasure to speak to Amy Mullins of Melbourne’s Triple-R radio on Tuesday morning for her “Uncommon Sense” programme. Amy is such a well-informed and insightful interviewer, and in the course of our half-hour conversation we covered a lot of ground on the latest developments from Hong Kong. You can listen here.

And the past week took something of a “Meta” turn, writing and talking about writing and talking about protests:

  • I joined a panel on Tuesday night at the charming Bleak House Books alongside Natasha Khan of the Wall Street Journal and Holmes Chan of Hong Kong Free Press on “Reporting In Uncertain Times”, talking about the role of the media in covering the ongoing protests. You can catch up on the livestream replay here.

  • The latest issue of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s The Correspondent magazine includes reflections from the front lines by a whole host of terrific reporters, photographers and observers, to which I contributed a short reflection on the role of live-streaming in the current protest coverage.

In Closing

A few photographs from yesterday’s Kowloon protests below.

This has been A Procrastination for me, and perhaps for you too.

Thanks for reading.


A warning of tear gas fired ahead

“Rioting” Hong Kong-style: Merc untouched

Protesters in Mong Kok at Golden Hour on Sunday evening

At the front lines outside Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station

Water sports equipment is popular at the front lines