On 1 July 2020, China enforced a national security law in Hong Kong, which swept locals, who had lived for decades within the relative shelter of the common law system, further than ever under Beijing’s rule. The city’s vivacious atmosphere quietened almost overnight as it became clear that the vaguely defined law could leave those who break it in prison for life. Residents deleted their social media pages and text messages. Shop and café owners peeled down the pro-protest yellow propaganda that had spread across the metropolis like butter. The first arrests were made. As the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, watched the rise of the Chinese flag, it was clear the old Hong Kong had melted and a new era had begun.
In the aftermath, Antony Dapiran wondered if his book City on Fire, which was only published in March, was still relevant. “Things have moved so quickly and beyond anyone’s expectations,” the Hong Kong–based corporate lawyer and author tells me.