Where We Could Wind Up

Farewell to Hong Kong and Its Big Lie
Timothy McLaughlin

Falsehoods, gaslighting, and endless fabrications in the city are equaled only by the cowardice of the people partaking in the insulting ruse that it is still free…

For decades, the city’s residents would gather… in the thousands on the night of June 4 to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a moment of mass collective remembrance for those killed by Chinese forces in Beijing in 1989 and, though less so, a nod to the formative role that the crackdown played in the development of Hong Kong’s own prodemocracy movement. This year, the once-moving scene was entirely stamped out by the city’s more authoritarian turn….

Elsewhere in Hong Kong that evening, police stopped and searched a car that drove near the park, its license plate reading us 8964, numbers that corresponded with the date of the massacre. One woman was questioned and warned for handing out blank sheets of white paper. Police told another woman to turn off the light on her mobile phone—some people had turned theirs on in lieu of the candles traditionally used to mark the Victoria Park vigil. When she asked why she needed to do so, the officer said it was in order to preserve her phone’s battery life.

The narrative of the 2019 prodemocracy movement—in which millions defended their liberties and pushed for more freedom—now recounted by Beijing and its loyalists in Hong Kong is one of paid protesters, foreign agitators, and unpatriotic internal opposition. Claims that once resided in the mind of unhinged propagandists and on the fringes of the internet are now accepted wholesale in many parts of polite society, a story line being cemented in the city’s courts, where scores of activists and former lawmakers are on trial for violating Hong Kong’s national-security law.

The law, imposed by Beijing a year into the protest movement, was tailor-made to prevent the events of 2019 from happening again, as well as to destroy the bonds and solidarity forged throughout that year….

It is a struggle to try to keep up with the lies, which arrive at a furious volume and pace: New school textbooks proclaim that Hong Kong was never a British colony, for example, and heavy editing was deployed earlier this year to make a set of postage stamps appear more patriotic. All of these fictions serve the city’s leaders and officials, and help perpetuate one of the biggest, most enduring falsehoods about Hong Kong: that it is a city where people simply don’t care about politics.


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