​Dapiran, Antony (2020) City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong. London: Scribe. 336 pp.

​ISBN: 978-1-922310-00-2

Stein Tønnesson

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

Read more about this book: scribepublications.com.au

​As a sequence to his City of Protest (2017) about the 2014 Umbrella movement, the Australian lawyer Antony Dapiran has already produced this remarkable narrative of the protests in Hong Kong during 2019. Dapiran knows the city state intimately and has been able to observe its politics and protests for many years. Although this is not a social science study, but an engaging and mostly chronological account, it is penetrating in its observation of the methods used by Hong Kong’s leaderful (not leaderless!) WikiProtests. Huge crowds were mobilized and inventive attacks carried out without any central leadership by small networked activist cells. Dapiran looks at their use of encrypted apps for communication, of their LIHKG.com forum for mobilization, and of songs and slogans ('Revolution of our times') for identity formation. He reveals how they cope with the police, sometimes intimidating them personally, and he depicts the use of black colour, not only as a means to prevent facial detection, but as an expression of a mortality-obsessed desperation that forms a contrast to the exuberance of 2014. Hong Kong people seem to feel that their home cannot survive but will succumb to mainlandization. Last year’s mass gatherings were a mix of protest and funeral in defence of and mourning for core values. Were the protests non-violent? Only half so. The movement included a rational, non-violent camp and another camp of 'brave' or 'valiant' frontliners, willing to engage in violent confrontations. The two camps did not, however, criticize each other, and when there was vandalism it was 'extremely disciplined and focused', with no looting. Dapiran’s work will prove highly useful to students of social movements.