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Umbrellas in Bloom Paperback – December 7, 2016
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There is no greater tour guide to the Umbrella campgrounds than Ng – he offers a vivid and comprehensive account of the pro-democracy movement and a city in transition. Umbrellas in Bloom is a definitive compendium of on-the-ground reporting, timelines, maps, photographs, illustrations, a glossary, and a who's-who of Hong Kong's politics. -- Tom Grundy, editor-in-chief, Hong Kong Free Press
Ng's authoritative account of the occupy movement is compelling and full of surprises. He combines a journalist's precision with a Hong Konger's passionate heart. -- Zeb Eckert, Bloomberg Television
Insightful, accessible, and a hugely enjoyable read, Umbrellas in Bloom is jam-packed with eureka moments. The movement in all its vibrancy jumps off every page. It is essential reading for anybody wanting to understand the existential crisis currently engulfing Hong Kong. -- Matthew Torne, director of Lessons in Dissent
The Umbrella Movement was a seminal moment in Hong Kong's history. This skillful blending of personal narrative and analysis represents a vital contribution to understanding what happened and indeed what might happen next. -- Stephen Vines, author of "Hong Kong: China’s New Colony"
About the Author
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Paperback : 392 pages
- ISBN-10 : 988137653X
- ISBN-13 : 978-9881376534
- Publisher : Black Smith Books (December 7, 2016)
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,501,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It is clichéd to say that Hong Kong is unique. Yet clichés tend to emerge from truth. Hong Kong’s decolonization in 1997 provides us with the only example in history of a supremely successful, economically developed capitalist international finance centre, having its sovereignty transferred to the largest bastion of communism the world has ever known. That this happened so smoothly at the time was in large part due to Deng Xiaoping’s “one-country, two-systems” formula embodied in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution which would see Hong Kong being part of China, as one country, but preserving a different legal system and having a high degree of autonomy in its governance.
At the heart of the Basic Law and the “one-country, two-systems” principle, is the attempt to reconcile two fundamentally different economic and political systems. One the one hand, we have Hong Kong, built on the principles of individual choice, freedom of speech, capitalism and judicial independence. On the other hand we have China’s communist model, which is adopting its own version of rampant capitalism coupled with never-seen-before GDP growth rates, but it is a system where the state plays a major role and the overriding principles are the Confucian concepts of stability, loyalty, security and control of the many ahead of the individual.
Whilst the Basic Law makes a valiant attempt to enable these Western and Chinese versions of capitalism to co-exist, coexistence is not enough. The Basic Law also had the task of addressing the point at which the Two Systems inevitably intersected. That point of unavoidable intersection comes in Article 45 of the Basic Law: the method of electing Hong Kong’s Chief Executive.
Article 45 tries to integrate the control that the Chinese system demands with the individual voting system Hong Kongers desire. It does this by allowing the Chief Executive to be elected by universal suffrage – one-person/one-vote. But the only candidates who can run for election are those pre-selected by a nominating committee. And by controlling the nominating committee Beijing retains ultimate control. Valiant though the effort is, therefore, what Article 45 seeks to do is reconcile what is, in the end, an irreconcilable contradiction. A clash on the issue was inevitable when it came to the implementation of Article 45 and that clash erupted onto the streets in September 2014 in the form of the Umbrella Movement.
To see this clash as just a parochial political issue that only impacts Hong Kong, would be wrong. The coming together of East and West in Hong Kong, between these two dyametrically opposed versions of capitalism, is a prelude to the same confrontation which will be played out on the global stage in the coming years as China achieves its superpower status. That is why Ng’s book is so important.
The ground level view Ng gives us of this historic protest, is what makes this read such an important record. You feel the generational frustration which led to this moment and yet Ng also totally destroys everything you thought you knew about Hong Kong youth. Lacking in creativity because of their rote-learning education system, we were once told. A spoiled generation, brought up by maids and unable to fend for themselves. Only interested in activities that enhance their portfolios, that was how they were portrayed.
Ng shows us how the Umbrella Movement completely debunked this image. The chapters on Hong Kong 2.0, Harcourt Academy and the Waterblower’s Society offer up some of the most interesting parts of the book. Here, Ng records how the Umbrella Movement showed us what Hong Kong could be if it was only allowed to be. Here are the stories of the individuals who took part and why. This generation of individuals outstrategized the police, won the moral argument, created a logo in the form of the yellow umbrella which went viral and captured the global news cycle in the space of 48 hours. Volunteerism, inclusiveness, inventiveness and a sense of community (yes…..a sense of community… in Hong Kong, can you believe it!) were on full display in this protest because of these youngsters. Ng captures this moment with the stories of the individuals who played their part, because he himself was down at the site throughout, tutoring them and getting to the know them. This very personal element of the book is what gives it its power.
The other aspect worth mentioning is that this book is evidently the result an impressive level of research which guides us through Hong Kong’s needlessly complicated political system, giving the story of the Umbrella Movement the depth it truly deserves. Finally, like any impressive commentator, Ng does not shy away from opinion or looking to the future and putting the Umbrella Movement in that context. Sadly, he is being proved right about the increased radicalization which has since rent the city asunder and seen the rise of nativism. That said, the impact which the Umbrella Movement had on Ng’s own thinking (and he is not alone in this), will leave readers with the sense that perhaps an optimistic outcome may still be a possibility.
All in all, then, a great read, an important book and a complete must for the bookshelves of anyone interested in Hong Kong and China.
Nineteen years ago Britain gave Hong Kong back to China after ruling the territory since the 1840s. Before the Handover took place in 1997, the PRC and Britain signed an agreeement called the Joint Declaration, which called for a Basic Law that would lay out the terms for Hong Kong's first 50 years as a Chinese Special Administrative Region. This system is commonly referred to "one country, two systems", and it was to last until 2047. Since the Handover, Hong Kong residents have felt like China has been whittling away the rights Hong Kong people were promised in the Basic Law. Two issues were at the heart of the Occupy Movement in 2014, also called the Umbrella Movement: democratic elections for legislators and the chief executive, or governor of Hong Kong.
Jason Y Ng was at the center of the Occupy Movement, as he set up a free tutoring center on the street at night. He got to know many of the protestors and why they left school and their jobs to protest for democratic reforms. Ng's book is so compelling because he explains the issues at the heart of the movement and weaves that into his own experiences and that of the other protestors he gets to know. I felt like his assessment of the political climate was as objective as it could be given that he was a participant in the Umbrella Movement. He doesn't support independence from China and showed later in the book why the protest came apart after two months.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is familiar with Hong Kong politics or is interested in learning more about it.
Probably because the author spent much of his life in Canada and the U.S., he seems uniquely able to explain Hong Kong’s Kafkaesque political arrangement to a Western audience in a way that is not only relatable but often downright funny.
Despite having an interest in Hong Kong current events, I still expected it to be difficult to get through the nuts and bolts of an unfamiliar government system. I was so wrong. I couldn’t put this book down. It was also fascinating to get such an intimate view of the protests through Ng’s first-hand account and all of the characters he follows. They each come from different backgrounds but share a common love for their city and a devotion to making it all it can be. With so much conflict happening in the world, I think people of every country will relate to their struggles.