Essays: Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a borrowed place | PEN Hong Kong


Essays: Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a borrowed place | PEN Hong Kong


Published by Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong 2017 (first edition)

500 g, 14 × 22 cm, 400 pages

Binding Paperback

SKU: 978-988-77927-6-5

Add To Cart

The handover in 1997 saw Hong Kong’s smooth transition from colonial to Communist rule under the auspices of the ‘one country, two systems’ framework. But twenty years on, the real impact of the sovereignty change is just starting to register: the city’s near-total economic integration with the mainland, a massive influx of Chinese visitors, simmering cross-border tensions, a rapid erosion of freedoms and currently a string of protest and social unrest. PEN Hong Kong invited some of Hong Kong’s most prominent literary and creative minds to reflect on the city’s post-colonial development, in a definitive compendium of essays, poems, fiction and artwork that marks this historical milestone.

‘Twenty years after Hong Kong’s retrocession, its creative writing remains in robust health, as contributions to this new PEN anthology rousingly testify. The compendium’s stimulating cocktail of critical essays, poetry, short fiction and cartoons is to be relished both by those who know Hong Kong well and by those who wish to know it better. Together these pieces lend a vibrant collective voice to the city’s linguistic and cultural cosmopolitanism and pluralism and highlight its refusal to metamorphose into “just another Chinese city” or to forgo its unique identity. Every word on every page challenges official dogma on what “loving Hong Kong” really means and on who is permitted to do so and how.’ — Michael Ingham, author of Hong Kong: A Cultural and Literary History


Michael Braga · Mary-Jean Chan · Jennifer S. Cheng · Kris Cheng · Chow Hon Fai · Larry Feign · Harry Harrison · Gérard Henry · Louise Ho · Oscar Ho Hing Kay · Tammy Ho Lai-Ming · Sarah Howe · Law Lok Man, Louise · Arthur Leung · Leung Ping-Kwan · Louisa Lim · Shirley Geok-lin Lim · Lui Wing Kai, Eric · William Nee · Jason Y. Ng · Margaret Ng · Timothy O’Leary · Michael O’Sullivan · Ilaria Maria Sala · Mishi Saran · Shahilla Shariff · Shen Jian · So Mei Chi · Tang Siu Wa · Eddie Tay · Chip Tsao · Stephen Vines · Marco Wan · Wawa · Kate Whitehead · Joshua Wong · Nicholas Wong · Xu Xi · Marco Yan · Chris Yeung · Douglas Young

What other say about this book:

‘Anyone passionate about the city’s future, or even just curious, should read it.’ — Keith Bradsher, Shanghai Bureau Chief, The New York Times

Hong Kong 20/20 is a journey, both bleak and invigorating, through one of the world’s most extraordinary political experiments twenty years after the handover. It is opinionated, combative, energising, and unlikely to be available in a Xinhua bookstore near you.’ — Tom Phillips, China correspondent, The Guardian

Hong Kong 20/20 contains some of the most moving pieces you will read about how Hong Kong has changed in the last 20 years. The launch of the book of essays, fiction, poems and cartoons by PEN Hong Kong also turned out to be a test of this city’s tolerance of dissent.’ — South China Morning Post

Video: watch the book launch event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club

‘With original and imaginative interventions into a range of intellectual and personal positions, this anthology brings together our city’s leading activists, intellectuals and writers who speak out against the deteriorating situation of the metropolis and contemplate its uncertain future. Their lucid and ingenious writings open up new vistas in our understanding of our past and present relations with China and the world.’ — Lo Kwai Cheung, director of Creative and Professional Writing Programme, Hong Kong Baptist University

‘PEN Hong Kong’s stirring collection of literary pieces delves into the city’s past and explores its future. Timely and insightful, this anthology provides a fresh perspective on questions of identity, citizenship and change.’ — Phillipa Milne, festival manager of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival

‘“Borrowed place, borrowed time” was a phrase coined to describe colonial Hong Kong in the years before its return to China. Now a different clock is ticking, and it is twenty years since the 1997 handover. This collection of stories, poems, essays and cartoons is a vivid stock-taking of where Hong Kong is now, and where it may yet be going. These “reflections” are themselves a reflection of the people of the city — diverse, spiky, resilient, always surprising, wonderfully talkative.’ — Douglas Kerr, professor of English, University of Hong Kong

‘Hong Kong is one of the world’s greatest cities. It will be at the centre of some of the political and intellectual arguments of the century ahead. My own bet is that the success of Hong Kong’s pluralist citizenship will come out on top whatever the challenges. Reading many of the contributions [in Hong Kong 20/20] confirms me in that view.’ — Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong

PEN Hong Kong 香港筆會 is one of the 148 centres of PEN International. Founded in 2016, it is a not-for-profit bilingual society of Hong Kong-based writers, poets, publishers, editors, translators, journalists and academics, aimed at promoting literature and defending the freedom of expression in Hong Kong. For more, visit