Book reviews
Leave a comment

Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong

ed. Holmes Chan /
Published by Small Tune Press, 2020 /
Jacqueline Leung /  

The cover is a photograph of an ordinary pavement in Hong Kong: to fill in the holes where old bricks had been dug up by protesters, concrete was poured to ensure it couldn’t happen again, creating uneven surfaces that look like hastily patched-up scars. In the year-long discord that has rocked the city to its core, Hong Kong has not been given space to heal. Newspapers and commentators have covered the protests extensively, but their words are analytical, aiming to explain and speculate about the city’s future, while readers at home, particularly those whose realities are built on the English language, struggle to find representations of months of disenfranchised grief.

Not enough has been written about Hong Kong’s trauma in the past year, and Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong is one of the publications starting to fill that gap. Edited by Holmes Chan, the collection features essays by 11 young journalists reporting for multiple news outlets – one contributor was doxxed by mainland Chinese netizens and remains anonymous, their name and biography a blank stretch of black. For some others, it is the first time they have expressed how they personally feel, published and in print, beyond their day-to-day bylines.

Through an essentially journalistic lens, the collection recounts experiences on the ground and in newsrooms as its writers navigate the current state of the city. Given this focus, Aftershock is able to get at issues of representation and the processes by which the movement is distorted or effaced. Taiwanese writer Hsiuwen Liu’s piece, about how Taiwan’s support is propagated by narratives of scaremongering and threat to the island’s autonomy, best encapsulates the struggle to define Hong Kong as it is to readers abroad: “Without the idea of ‘today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan’, could people in my homeland still relate to the place I now call home?”

Even in Hong Kong, the task of unwrapping the protests is becoming increasingly difficult, not because they’re still happening, but because the authorities have long since given up on logical debate, opting to spin their own version of events to legitimise the use of force. With state misconduct glossed over, we are left reeling to defend the validity of our shared knowledge. As Chan describes in his own essay, to write about Hong Kong’s plight is to participate in a duel between adversaries: “The strength of the reality you propose does not depend on its resemblance to the world; it is measured only against the strength of the alternate reality coming from your opponent.”

Many of the essays in Aftershock gravitate toward pivotal events, such as the sieges at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the death of student Chow Tsz-lok, because they represent when lines have been crossed and when Hong Kong hurt the most. By putting into words the incidents as they were seen and experienced, writers get at the essence of the transgressions, which is constantly being buried by new information and fresh wounds. Aftershock carries no answers to the city’s crisis; that is not its task. Rather, the book offers a safe space for its writers to find expression for others and for themselves, knowing their realities are taken to be true and will resonate with those who have also grieved.

Violence pervades each of the narratives. Sum Lok-kei examines the sheer absurdity of the invasion of his home as the police attacked Chinese University, where he resides, with hundreds of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets. Rachel Cheung recalls the silencing of protesters’ trauma in the newsroom under the pretext of impartial coverage. Jessie Pang looks back on an interview with Chow Tsz-lok’s friend who was giving free hugs at his university atrium, who broke down and cried as he spoke.

These tribulations are paired with moments of melancholic tenderness, like when students from a local girls’ college fit protective goggles and hard hats over their cheongsam uniforms to rally, or when an office worker rolls up his sleeves to dig up bricks from the pavement, or the steadfastness of a district councillor, who served his community for years through efforts largely unnoticed before he was even elected to office. Gathering over hotpot, friends broach the subject of emigration, revealing the different stakes at play as people imagine alternative homes or the lack thereof.

When Hong Kong’s struggle is remembered, what comes to mind will depend in part on what has been written about it. In English—a language so intricately tangled with Hong Kong’s identity, which speaks to those at home while allowing others to listen in—Aftershock tells stories of a city existing beyond headlines of fire and smoke, reclaiming territory for its people as they guard their remaining freedoms and memories of all that has transpired.

《 Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong 》
編輯:Holmes Chan
出版社:Small Tune Press, 2020年
Jacqueline Leung  


過去一年描寫香港創傷的報導不多,而《Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong》就是其中一本填補這空白的書籍。本書由Holmes Chan編輯,收錄了11位來自不同傳媒機構的年輕記者的文章。其中一位撰稿人因被大陸網民「起底」而隱姓埋名,姓名與簡介只由一片黑色代表。對其他作者來說,這是他們第一次以出版和印刷的形式實在地表達自己的個人感受,超出日常的工作範疇。


即使在香港,再展開示威活動已經變得越來越困難,不是因為活動仍在進行,而是因為政府早已放棄了作出合理的辯論,選擇編造自己的版本來令武力合理化。隨著政府不斷掩蓋自己的不當行為,我們被迫捍衛我們所看到的真相。正如Holmes Chan.在自己的文章中所述,要寫出香港的困境就要投入與對手的鬥爭:「你提出的現實的力量並不取決於與其他人所說的有多相似,而是在於對手拿出多少力量去塑造另類現實來跟你抗衡。」


每個故事中都充斥著暴力的場面。沈諾基指出了警察襲擊他居住的中文大學時用上數百枚催淚彈和橡膠子彈的荒謬;Rachel Cheun.憶起報社以「持平」為藉口,壓制了抗爭者創傷的聲音;Jessie Pang回顧與周梓樂友人的訪問,該友人當時在大學中庭向在場人士送上擁抱,受訪時崩潰淚下。




Leave a Reply