Antony Dapiran reviews Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong, edited by Holmes Chan
“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.” – Frank Kafka, The Trial
Hong Kongers may feel they have good cause to invoke the name of Franz Kafka. They are becoming accustomed to the arbitrary exercise of state power in illogical and often absurd ways that would make even Kafka blush.
Since the imposition of the National Security Law on 30 June, Hong Kong has at times seemed to be descending inexorably into the Kafkaesque: teenagers arrested for their Facebook posts; people arrested for possessing wearing t-shirts or possessing flags that bear “illegal” slogans; police demanding that pro-democracy restaurants and stores tear down their Lennon Walls; songs banned in schools; Hong Kong police declaring that half a dozen people overseas are wanted under the new law (including activist Samuel Chu, a US citizen in the US apparently accused of the crime of lobbying his own government); Beijing’s leading official in Hong Kong warning that patriotism is “not a choice, but an obligation.”
Yet it is another aspect of Kafka that springs to mind on reading Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong, a collection of essays reflecting on the events of 2019 by the city’s leading young journalists writing in English.