A review by claudsreads
Freedom: How we lose it and how we fight back, by Evan Fowler, Nathan Law


i’ll review this book on what it set out to do: provide a primer on democratic values/freedom within the hk context and a warning to the “free” world. this isn’t intended for hong kongers who were involved/kept up with political events (there’ll be another book coming out for us <3), but i still had so many takeaways from this, mainly the role of student unions during occupy and nathan’s love for home that keeps his activism sustainable.

the best thing about this book is that it makes ~ freedom ~ a less elusive concept and the whole china question more approachable. it is a great piece of rhetoric; there are many nuances that are very well articulated i.e. a lot of important ground that isn’t covered in mainstream journalism, and something poli/phil academia still struggles a lot with. i think the final chapter deserves its own shout out (i’d rate it a 5/5) because it is a passionate, genuine, and grounded call for action. after a bleak chapter on disinformation and truth in authoritarian regimes, the final chapter cuts straight to the chase on the urgency of the china question, exposes the CCP’s sinister subversion of democratic lingo, gives us reasons to be hopeful for the future (despite the massive shit we’re in rn) and steps we can take to regain control of our civil liberties, wherever we are in the world.

this is not an academic text, so i don’t want to hold it to the same standards. however, the romanisation and footnotes in particular are inconsistent — what deserves a footnote, and will this affect the integrity of the book as facts get lost/muddled over time? who decides what words/expressions are romanised in pinyin with tones, pinyin without tones, and when are characters accompanied by trad/simplified chinese? i also think that the book tries to give too much context, yet fails to give enough; i find his account overly sympathetic to the role of the colonial administration during the pre-1997 era (e.g. they were ‘different’ to other colonial admins + really tried to give hkers the democratic freedoms they wanted after 1997, but were just unable to negotiate a good deal. it was the hkers who should have rallied harder for better negotiations, but 1c2s is what it is).

i wonder how this book will stand the test of time; will it be banned? where? will people dispute nathan’s version of events? how will collective memory of the last three years look like, among those who stayed and among the diaspora? how will the hong kong identity evolve under authoritarian rule? the fact that this book is likely to resonate a lot young hkers, but is not promoted even by the most openly pro-democracy indie booksellers (for reasons we know and understand) is especially troubling. anyway. a lot of thoughts still thinking gayau nathan <3