After the Umbrella Era, Turning Inward

Yvonne Yevan Yu watches Last Exit to Kai Tak

Edward Lau Wai-tak runs up the back stairway of a government building, followed by a team of supporters. He tries one locked door, then another. As a district council candidate, he's there to demand a meeting with officials, whom he says are evading their appointment. He curses at them, puts his weight on a door handle, and it opens. “Go through here,” he says urgently.

With elections only a few months away, Lau and his team are protesting the cutting down of four century-old banyan trees on Bonham Road in Sai Wan district, Ed Lau's would-be constituency. Growing out of stone walls, anchored by sprawling roots, the trees are a local marvel. But when earlier we see Lau, a businessman-turned-politician, standing in front of the stumps with a megaphone and a rallying cry, one can't help but feel an incongruity with his platform, that he is campaigning on an outsized sense of proportion. But it’s not just about the trees.


“You Can’t Arrest Us All!”

China’s Feminists Are Betraying Big BrotherEmily Walz

Rewind to early 2015, Beijing. Groping on the crowded subway system has the city government considering women-only cars in an effort to prevent sexual harassment (a marginal improvement over its 2013 plan to fix the problem by telling women to cover up). A month and a half later, five young feminists are planning to distribute anti-sexual harassment stickers on public transit for International Women’s Day. They never get the chance. Instead, they are swept up and brought to a detention center in Beijing. The women’s names are Li Maizi, Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, and Wang Man, but when the state locks them up, they are reborn as the Feminist Five. The sudden crackdown marks a political tipping point: feminist activism in China has now crossed from the realm of the officially tolerated to the politically dangerous.


Out of the Ger

Joshua Bird reviews Ulaanbaatar Beyond Water and Grass by Michael Aldrich

For much of recent Asian history, Mongolia has been an afterthought. An entry point into China, or a convenient stopping point on the Trans-Siberian railway. While hundreds of new books on China and its mega-cities hit the shelves every year, the number of tomes dedicated to its neighbor to the north can be counted on one hand. Even where Mongolia is the primary subject of writing, it is the grasslands and open plains that capture the western imagination. Ulaanbataar (UB), Mongolia’s capital and largest city, where mentioned at all, is depicted as a tainted place that one must escape as quickly as possible on the journey to the “real” Mongolia – compromised, ugly, a foreshadowing of the disappearance of rural Mongolia. It is therefore surprising to find a travel guide dedicated to the city.


Seven Years Not in Tibet

HT reviews Blessings from Beijing by Greg C. Bruno

In Blessings from Beijing, journalist Greg Bruno sets out to chronicle the slow fracturing of the Tibetan exile movement in India and Nepal. Once an international cause célèbre and a cultural force to be reckoned with, the movement is now entering its seventh decade and is showing signs of decline. The Dalai Lama is in his eighties, Chinese harassment is becoming better funded and more effective, and the younger generations of refugee Tibetans are jumping ship to the West, back to the PRC, or in any other direction they can. Bruno's reports from fin-de-siècle Dharamsala are timely. However, his failure to grapple with the complexities of the 21st-century People’s Republic weakens his analysis, and the most interesting stories often seem just beyond his grasp.