Press release


Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a borrowed place
(Blacksmith Books, July 2017)

HONG KONG — To mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China, PEN Hong Kong presents Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a borrowed place, a book featuring some of the city’s most prominent and creative literary and artistic minds. Poets, writers, academics and artists have come together to reflect on Hong Kong’s past and present, and to imagine its future. The book offers a rich mix of poetry, essays, fiction and art, with forewords by Timothy Garton Ash and Kevin Lau Chun-to.

‘This book is a celebration of Hong Kong’s creativity but also a declaration. PEN Hong Kong is prepared to stand firm against increasing pressure from mainland China so that we can maintain Hong Kong as a safe harbour for freedom of expression,’ said Jason Y. Ng, PEN Hong Kong president. ‘Some of the pieces are optimistic, some are dark, but all of them represent a unique and personal take on the city we love.’

Contributors include:
Joshua Wong. Wong is the Secretary-General of Demosistō, a political party he co-founded in Hong Kong. Wong came to the world stage in 2012 as the 14-yearold student leader in an effort to oppose the implementation of a patriotic education curriculum and in 2014 as a core student organizer for the Umbrella Movement. That year, he was nominated for Time’s Person of the Year and was named one of 25 Most Influential Teens by Time, World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune and 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy. In his essay for Hong Kong 20/20, Wong talks about his coming of age as a student activist, the historic importance of the Umbrella Movement and his dream of leaving Hong Kong a better place for his children.

Louisa Lim. Lim is the author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia; Tiananmen Revisited (Oxford University Press, 2014), which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. She is an award-winning journalist, who grew up in Hong Kong and reported from China for a decade for NPR and the BBC. She now teaches journalism at the University of Melbourne. Lim writes about her mixed heritage in a delightfully raw look at what it meant to grow up in Hong Kong as the daughter of a Chinese father and a ‘posh’ British mum.

Jason Y. Ng. Ng is a bestselling author. His latest work, Umbrellas in Bloom (Blacksmith, 2016) is the first book in English to chronicle the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the last installment of a Hong Kong trilogy that tracks the city’s post-colonial development. As a columnist, Ng contributes to the Guardian, the South China Morning Post, TimeOut (HK) and Hong Kong Free Press. He is also a full-time lawyer and an adjunct associate law Professor at the University of Hong Kong. Ng is the president of PEN Hong Kong. In his fiction piece for Hong Kong 20/20, Ng uses an allegorical tale to illustrate the gradual political awakening experienced by many Hong Kongers who, until recent events such as the Umbrella Movement, had chosen a steady livelihood over principles and were too quick to accept economic handouts from mainland China even as their freedoms were taken away bit by bit.

Arthur Leung. Leung is one of Hong Kong’s most well-known poets. His poems have been published in print magazines, anthologies and online journals. Besides giving talks and demonstrations in schools, he has been invited to participate in “Shall We Jam – A Recital of Leung Ping Kwan’s Poetry in Song, Dance & Music” as a performing artist and in Hong Kong Baptist University’s International Writers Workshop as a local writer. Leung serves as an Associate Editor for Cha: An Asian Literary Journal. He was a winner of the 2008 Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition. Leung’s poems in the anthology offer a portrayal of Hong Kong since the handover.

Harry Harrison. Harrison best known for his daily cartoons in the South China Morning Post, where he is political cartoonist. Among various other publications, he regularly produces cartoons for Thomson Reuters’ International Finance Review and was a regular contributor to The Guardian, Time, The Wall Street Journal Asia and Far Eastern Economic Review. Over the years, Harrison’s work has won various awards including the Human Rights Press Award for Body of Work and most recently the Award of Excellence in Editorial Cartooning at the 2015 SOPA Awards. Harrison drew a new cartoon for the PEN Hong Kong anthology.

“It has been 20 years since the handover of Hong Kong back to China, and there are more and more threats to our city’s right to free expression. Hong Kong’s traditional role as a safe harbour for activists, book publishers, writers, poets, journalists and academics is under attack,” Ng said. “In 2016, PEN Hong Kong formed as a way to bring together the English language and Chinese language writer communities to defend the city.” What prompted the establishment of PEN Hong Kong?
In 2014, Kevin Lau Chun-to, a former editor of Ming Pao, a newspaper known for its critical coverage of the government, suffered a near-fatal stabbing just three days after thousands of journalists had marched to protest the erosion of press freedoms in Hong Kong.
In 2015, the mainland government allegedly kidnapped five Hong Kong-based booksellers known for producing provocative books about the Chinese leadership. One of the men was snatched right out of Hong Kong, and another during a trip to Thailand — proving that borders can no longer prevent the Chinese government from punishing its critics.

About PEN Hong Kong:
The mission of PEN Hong Kong is to bring together writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, translators, journalists, academics and others working in the field of the written word to celebrate and promote literature and creative expression. We are a bilingual nonprofit focused on defending freedom of expression in Hong Kong and the rest of China and shall join our counterparts in PEN International as advocates for freedom of expression worldwide. PEN International has 148 centers around the world, with more than 25,000 members.
About Blacksmith Books:
Blacksmith Books is an English-language publishing house based in Hong Kong. It focuses on non-fiction with a local angle, although it also publishes one or two fiction titles a year. Its books are on sale through retailers in Asia, the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia.

Advance praise for Hong Kong 20/20:
‘Hong Kong is one of the world’s greatest cities. It will be at the centre of some of the political and intellectual arguments of the century ahead. My own bet is that the success of Hong Kong’s pluralist citizenship will come out on top whatever the challenges. Reading many of the contributions [in Hong Kong 20/20] confirms me in that view.’ — Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong

‘Seldom before have so many of the clearest-eyed observers provided such a broad set of essays, poems, short stories and cartoons about Hong Kong’s evolution. Anyone passionate about the city’s future, or even just curious, should read it.’ — Keith Bradsher, Shanghai Bureau Chief, The New York Times

Hong Kong 20/20 is a journey, both bleak and invigorating, through one of the world’s most extraordinary political experiments twenty years after the handover. It is opinionated, combative, energising, and unlikely to be available in a Xinhua bookstore near you.’ — Tom Phillips, China correspondent, The Guardian

‘Twenty years after Hong Kong’s retrocession, its creative writing remains in robust health, as contributions to this new PEN anthology rousingly testify. The compendium’s stimulating cocktail of critical essays, poetry, short fiction and cartoons is to be relished both by those who know Hong Kong well and by those who wish to know it better. Together these pieces lend a vibrant collective voice to the city’s linguistic and cultural cosmopolitanism and pluralism and highlight its refusal to metamorphose into “just another Chinese city” or to forgo its unique identity. Every word on every page challenges official dogma on what “loving Hong Kong” really means and on who is permitted to do so and how.’ — Michael Ingham, author of Hong Kong: A Cultural and Literary History

See more at these links:
Pen Hong Kong
Hong Kong 20/20