Rebel City - Hong Kong's Year of Water and Fire

Rebel City - Hong Kong's Year of Water and Fire

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SCMP's reporting team looks back at Hong Kong's most wrenching political crisis since its return to Chinese rule in 1997. Anti-extradition bill protests that morphed rapidly into a wider anti-government movement in 2019 left no aspect of the city untouched, from its social compact to its body politic to its open economy. The demonstrations which continued well into 2020 have tested every institution of the city, from the civil service to the police to the courts and even its rail transport operator, and from offices and businesses to universities and schools, and from churches to families and even friends.

This book is for anyone seeking to understand not just what Hong Kong has gone through but also the global phenomenon of increasingly leaderless protest movements. Fueled by profound angst about the place of millennial youth in society, widening income inequality, and the speed of digital communications, Hong Kong was in retrospect ripe to be the laboratory for a new-age protest movement, nearly a decade after the Middle East's Arab spring.

The essays in the book collectively compose a picture of a society in trauma, bent and broken, but showing signs of an uncanny ability to bounce back. What shape it will be in a few years from now, however, is much harder to predict.

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"This excellent book is an inspiring reminder of the vital importance of a free press in any society that is struggling with difficult social and political problems. Throughout 2019, international observers relied on the South China Morning Post to reveal the full complexity of the Hong Kong situation. This book provides a chance for readers to reflect on what happened, and draw lessons for the future."

Kurt Tong
former United States Consul General to Hong Kong and Partner at The Asia Group


"'One of the British Prime Ministers once complained of bias in the media and he was asked in which direction, and he said it's biased in every direction.' — Chris Patten. The events in 2019 shocked and polarized Hong Kong. A fearless and vibrant press is indispensable in such times. It is the price to pay for a free and pluralistic society that the press provokes disagreement, irritates, or even occasionally gets it wrong. The pieces in this volume will not — and are not designed to — please everybody. This is in the best traditions of the Post — long may it continue. I congratulate the Post for a job well done."

Paul Shieh SC
former Chairman, Hong Kong Bar Association


"As mentioned in this book, the protests in Hong Kong against the extradition bill of 2019 were 'among the world's most visible political events in history'. Like the 2003 protest against the national security bill and the 'umbrella movement' of 2014, the 2019 movement was a watershed moment that raised fundamental questions about the future of 'one country, two systems'. This book, written by South China Morning Post journalists who eyewitnessed the turmoil is an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to know what happened and to understand why."

Albert H Y Chen
Cheng Chan Lan Yue Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Hong Kong and
member of the Basic Law Committee


"2019 was a turbulent and tumultuous year for Hong Kong. Events followed fast upon each other. This collection of stories, interviews and analysis by seasoned reporters from the South China Morning Post performs the crucial service of recording what happened, asking why it happened, and, most important of all, not rushing to any quick conclusions. A powerful, and at times moving, account of a city under siege, but trying to find its way."

Kerry Brown
Director, Lau China Institute, King's College London



The South China Morning Post is a leading global news media company that has reported on China and Asia for more than a century. Founded in 1903, SCMP is headquartered in Hong Kong and is the city's newspaper of record. To serve its global readership, its network of correspondents spans across Asia and the US reporting on issues relevant to its mission, which is to lead the global conversation about China. Its digital reach makes it one of the region's biggest publications, providing readers with accurate, credible and compelling content. SCMP became the first news organization in Asia to join the Trust Project in 2020, a consortium of top news companies developing global transparency standards for credible journalism.

 Zuraidah Ibrahim is Deputy Executive Editor of the South China Morning Post, overseeing local Hong Kong coverage and Asia and International news. Previously the deputy editor of The Straits Times in Singapore, she was a key author of the bestselling memoir Lee Kuan Yew, Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going (2011). Her most recent publication is The Opposition in Singapore (2017).

 Jeffie Lam is a correspondent and leads the Hong Kong politics team at the South China Morning Post. An award-winning political journalist, she started her career as a reporter in 2009 and joined the Post in 2013, covering the city's legislative affairs, social movements and party politics. Jeffie reported on the Occupy movement in 2014 and the protests of 2019.