‘Unfree Speech’ (2020) – Book Review

(Penguin Books)

Being one of the most prominent campaigners and protesters will almost certainly put you on the radar of the Chinese government, and that is risky especially when one of you writes opinion pieces for The South China Morning Post, and China expects no pieces to be published against their government. The other is a student, convening the 2014 student protests, being included in The Times most influential teens of 2014 and nominated for The Nobel Peace Prize. Y.Ng is the opinion piece writer at The South China Morning Post, and has previously written books on the regime of Chinese influence in Hong Kong, and in this particular one, he tells Wong’s story, almost like a biographical account of what has been going on in Hong Kong.

A short Summary: A very well written and well documented piece by the opinion writer from The South China Morning post, which also includes sections from the former Conservative MP for Bath, whom upon losing his seat, became the final governor of Hong Kong, Chris Pattern, as well as contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Pattern’s foreward tells how he believes that people such as Joshua Wong and Jason Y.Ng, as protesters are the answers to Hong Kong’s democracy problem, and that there needs to be more people like them challenging for seats in the legislative assembly to try and stop a power grab before the fifty year transition period on the joint Sino-British declaration is up in 2047. 

The book starts nine months before Hong Kong is handed back to China, as that is when Joshua Wong was born. It jumps forward fourteen years to Wong as leader of the Umbrella movement and setting up his own political party. Wong’s arrests was delicately documented for the majority of the book, and the last chapters are dedicated to what he did on his release. 

A critical review of The Treat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act Now 

Jason Y.Ng has done an excellent job of analysing Joshua Wong’s time as a campaigner for Hong Hong’s sovereignty and with no end in sight, there will certainly be plenty more to write about. The standout sections of this book are Wong’s prison diaries, completed after his sentence for political protest. No details were left out as it was transferred over to this book and it was harrowing to see what life inside a Chinese controlled prison was like for a defender of Hong Kong democracy. The tightening grip of Chinese power soon dawned on Wong upon his release from detention.

Wong critically, and rightly points out, that Hong King and China have not always been at diplomatic odds with one another. He observed that relations started to deteriorate after the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing when the citizens of Hong Kong would make daily crossings into China for highly sought-after objects such as duty free, and it is since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012, that people like Wong, began to lose their sense of belonging from their homeland.

Concluding remarks

A great biographic look at how Wong has developed from a student protester into one the main legislators that both Hong Kong and mainland China fear. Jason Y.Ng has used his journalistic background at The South China Morning post to do an excellent job of portraying Wong’s story in his quest for freedom of speech and democracy.

Sadie is a Politics and International Relations Student at The University of The West of England in Bristol and is President-Elect of UWE Liberal Democrats. She tweets at @sadietrent_92