Time
My Lost Refuge Image Credit: Time
My Lost Refuge Image Credit: Time

My Lost Refuge

UNTIL IT WAS HANDED OVER TO CHINA by the British in 1997, Hong Kong was a safe haven for dissident writers and artists.

Ma Jian

After my first book was banned by the Chinese government in 1987, Hong Kong became my refuge for 10 years. In independent bookshops I could read books that were banned in the mainland. Within the four walls of my small home on Lamma Island, I was able, for the first time, to write in complete freedom and feel entirely safe, knowing that no police officer would come knocking on my door. Hong Kong was a welcoming, ever changing harbor that felt alive with new ideas and possibilities.

The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution that came into force in 1997, was supposed to guarantee that the territory’s freedoms and way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years. But by then, fellow dissidents and I sensed in our bones that Hong Kong’s independence was doomed. We had seen that the Chinese Communist Party never kept any of its promises to respect freedom and human rights, and we feared that well before 2047, China and Hong Kong would become “one country, one system.” On the day of the handover, as the People’s Liberation Army marched over the border, we walked onto the streets banging drums and tossing white “spirit money” into the air, enacting funeral rites for Hong Kong’s independence.

Now it is clear that the Chinese Communist Party had no intention of allowing Hong Kong to maintain its unique way of life. Judicial autonomy, press freedoms and civil liberties have been continuously eroded. This April, nine


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