February 22, 2020

The End of the World in Hong Kong

“THE LIGHTS IN MY ROOM ARE OFF, and the autumn air is trickling in through the window. It is my favorite season in Hong Kong, finally cool enough to get by without air-conditioning. I’m listening to meditation music a friend sent me to ease my persistent insomnia. My partner is staying up late, hunched over his desk with a tall can of beer, tweeting updates for a local media outlet.

Outside, a revolution is raging.

I check my phone to see whether my ex-flatmate, who has gone out to pick up protesters in his car, has responded to my messages; I haven’t heard from him in two hours. I turned off notifications on my phone a few weeks ago after the news alerts started seeping into my dreams. In one of them, I was on the train heading to a rally when a voice announced that the next stop was China.

This was Nov. 17, when the police rounded up students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and threatened to use lethal force if protesters occupying the campus refused to leave. But it could have been any other night. Some protesters are stranded on the streets, trying to find a way home and avoid arrest after a long day out. The rest of us wrestle with anxiety. We hold our breaths, praying this won’t turn into a brutal crackdown. Months ago, if anyone had said this, I would have laughed at them for being melodramatic.

Now these are the headlines we wake up to:

“Hong Kong university student dies following fall near police operation””

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