Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong

Louisa Lim. Riverhead, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-19181-1

Journalist Lim (The People’s Republic of Amnesia) mixes memoir and reportage in this riveting portrait of Hong Kong. Interweaving an up-close view of recent protests against Chinese rule with evocative details about Hong Kong’s colonial past, Lim contends that the 50-year term for “One Country, Two Systems”—the policy that was supposed to govern its 1997 transition from a British possession to a sovereign territory of China—has ended well ahead of schedule. She explains that Hong Kong officials were excluded in all but “an advisory capacity” from negotiations between Britain and China setting the rules for the handover, and documents how the steady erosion of freedoms led to the “Umbrella Movement” of 2014 (“an explosion of discontent, desire, and, above all, hope”) and widespread anti-government protests in 2019. Lim also explores Hong Kong’s multifaceted identity through profiles of residents including Tsang Tsou-choi, the “King of Kowloon,” a “toothless, often shirtless, disabled trash collector” who in the 1950s began covering government property with “misshapen, childlike calligraphy” claiming the British stole his family’s land: the entire Kowloon Peninsula. Conversations with protestors, many of whom were not yet born in 1997, convey their burning idealism as well as their growing sense of futility. The result is a vivid and vital contribution to postcolonial history. (Apr.)