Excerpt from Postscripts from a City Burning
By Sam Cheuk
Black-clad, gas mask, yellow hard hat. Leaderless.
JIMMY SHAM (岑子杰)
Leader of Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF): “This election is special because it is a formal confrontation between pro-establishment and pro-democracy parties after months of unrest caused by the misstep of government.”
CHRIS TANG (鄧炳強)
New Hong Kong Police Chief: “Believing such fake news would lead to a low credibility of the force, but surely we will also review whether we should be more transparent.”
CARRIE LAM (林鄭月娥)
Chief Executive of Hong Kong: “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, then step down.”
An ex-British colony and global financial hub, nexus through which western investments flow into China, and vice versa. Deemed a Special Administrative Region of China for that reason; “One Country, Two Systems” is enacted here, allowing the harbour city to keep “Common Law,” the inherited British governance and legal framework, as long as it doesn’t supersede “Basic Law,” the rule of law of China.
A fumbled attempt at passing an extradition amendment law that would establish an extradition accord between Hong Kong and China, ill-received by Hong Kong citizenry.
China and the USA are in the midst of a trade war. Prior to this, attempts were made by China to erode the British judicial and governmental framework.
P. XX: Actual quotes from the three political figures listed.
P. XX: "Like water" is a resistance tactic adapted by protesters, rooted in Bruce Lee's philosophy (which is in turn informed by Taoist philosophy of the mythical Lao Tzu) behind his self-formulated Jeet Kune Do martial art style which emphasizes reactive nimbleness against its opponent’s offense.
P. XX: "Cockroach" (曱甴) is a derogatory term for protesters, who have since adopted it as a badge of honour.
P. XX: "Add fuel" (加油) is a literal translation of a popular idiom that gesticulates encouragement.
P. XX: Hong Kong translates literally as "Fragrant Harbour."
P.XX: Actual quote from Annie Wu Suk-ching (伍淑清), the daughter of the founder of the Maxim Group, one of the largest conglomerate foodservice providers in Hong Kong.
P. XX: "Katamari" is a popular Japanese video game series where a "prince" character rolls a sticky ball across various terrain to pick up strewn-about objects with the goal of amassing as much weight as possible within a time limit.
P. XX: Dioxin is the chief carcinogen in tear gas most concerning from a public health perspective.
P. XX: Actual quote from a pro-government district councilor.
P. XX: "Blossom everywhere” (遍地開花) is a not-so-secretive codename for a then-newly implemented tactic by protesters where riots break out spontaneously in as many districts as possible to stretch police resources and their ability to focus on any one specific riot site.
P. XX: "Renovation" (裝修) is an euphemism used by protesters to connote vandalism.
P. XX: "The officer has to stay at work late, / his wife has to stay home and masturbate" was an overheard rhyming couplet in Cantonese (the primary Chinese dialect spoken in Hong Kong, as opposed to Mandarin which is commonly used in most of mainland China) during a protest march, uttered to taunt riot police on standby.
P. XX: Someone dragging a suitcase behind them in Hong Kong is usually a signal of a visiting mainland tourist, purchasing goods at a discount and/or of a better quality.
P. XX: The full text of the law came into light (or morning light, rather) and effect to the general public, including Carrie Lam, just before midnight of July 1st, 2020, coinciding with the founding day of the Chinese Communist Party.
The amendments as drafted are applicable to anyone within or without Hong Kong soil (e.g. those who have layovers at Hong Kong’s airport). Theoretically, anyone on earth who has committed offences as dictated by the law can be charged and have a warrant issued for their arrest. Many western democratic countries have since nixed extradition agreements with China since the passage of the amendments. Crimes committed against China’s National Security Law in countries where extradition agreements with China are still in place would fall under the jurisdiction of the host country to decide whether extradition would be warranted on a case-by-case basis.
Some legal experts in Hong Kong have communicated their reservations about the vagueness of the language in the law, as it may lend itself to selective enforcement and flexibility of interpretation, while some scholars in social sciences, intellectuals, and the general public have commented on the chilling effect the law has had on freedom of expression, the press, and assembly (including the indirect effect on internalized self-censorship; prior to the enactment of the law, many Hong Kong citizens began scrubbing their social media clean of any social and/or political content); lack of accountability regarding the increase of police jurisdiction and brutality; erosion of Common Law; dereliction of responsibility and duty of elected officials in their representation of their constituencies; fear of government surveillance, etc., all of which have been melded together under the umbrella term “White Terror” (白色恐怖).
Sam Cheuk is a Hong Kong-born Canadian poet and author of Love Figures (Insomniac Press, 2011), Deus et Machina (Baseline Press, 2017) and the upcoming collection Postscripts from a City Burning (Palimpsest Press, 2021) on the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and their aftermath. He holds an MFA in creative writing from New York University and BA in English literature from University of Toronto. He is currently working on the second half of the diptych, tentatively titled Marginalia, that examines the function, execution, and generative potential behind censorship. #StandWithHongKong #香港人加油 #MilkTeaAlliance