Handover book launch relocated after Asia Society says Occupy leader Joshua Wong can come but can’t speak

Launch of handover anthology ‘Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a borrowed place’ moved to FCC after Asia Society request that contributor Joshua Wong not speak at the event

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:07pm

Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a borrowed place contains some of the most moving pieces you will read about how Hong Kong has changed in the last 20 years. The launch of the book of essays, fiction, poems and cartoons by PEN Hong Kong also turned out to be a test of this city’s tolerance of dissent.

The Asia Society Hong Kong Center was the original venue for the launch and readings by contributors but it had one condition: that Joshua Wong Chi-fung, one of the contributors, did not speak at the event.

Review - Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a Borrowed Place is best collection in years of writing and comment about city

The executive committee of PEN Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation supporting literature and freedom of expression, voted to hold the event elsewhere instead of accepting a demand to exclude the Occupy movement student leader. “PEN Hong Kong believes building a strong community means generating conversation, not stifling it,” said Jason Y. Ng, President of PEN Hong Kong.

“In respect to our discussions with PEN Hong Kong, despite earnest efforts to collaborate on a programme design, we were unable to come up with one that would be mutually compelling to our respective target audiences,” said the Asia Society press office.

Asia Society says ‘judgment error’ led to event ban on student activist Joshua Wong

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club subsequently took over as host. Wong, secretary-general of Demosisto, didn’t attend in the end because he was taking part in the “Black Bauhinia” protest in Wan Chai ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit.

Apart from political celebrities like Wong, veteran journalists such as Stephen Vines, Louisa Lim and Ilaria Maria Sala have turned their pens to more personal pieces – and, in Sala’s case, fiction – that still capture the zeitgeist as well as their professional writings.

Award-winning writer Mishi Saran’s contribution is a short story called Walking Through Hong Kong. Like most of the pieces collected here, the tone is dark: “I understood at that moment that we were all trapped in the same dark cinema. The Exit sign had wavered and then had blinked off. It was too late to leave.”

Last year, the Asia Society called off a screening of a documentary about the 2014 Occupy movement at its Hong Kong centre, citing a need for neutrality.

PEN Hong Kong is crowdfunding for a Chinese version of the anthology.

You can order the book here.