... combines relentless on-the-ground reporting with a deep understanding of the city’s political, economic and social undercurrents ... Dapiran’s authoritative account weaves together vital context about the systemic problems facing Hong Kong ... The author uses flashbacks to link key moments of the protest movement with significant events and themes in Hong Kong’s recent history from the 2014 Umbrella Movement and demonstrations in 2003 against a proposed anti-subversion law. Dapiran’s style is energetic and vivid, transporting the reader to the middle of a riot police baton charge or a panicked, tear-gassed crowd, capturing the broad community support and new-found solidarity of the movement in a city that had a reputation for being cold and distant. (The smattering of typos throughout the book is one of the few giveaways of how quickly the book was produced) ... Some of the book’s most illuminating chapters explore how local and international companies addressed the age-old tension between profit and principle presented by the protests.
... an engaged and authoritative account of the movement – both the fire and the sparks that lit it ... With lawyerly precision, journalistic observation and a natural storyteller’s gift for pacey narrative, Dapiran covers the twists and turns of a story that became darker and more violent as the months wore on. He gets up-close without ever making himself the story.
Readers will appreciate how the author places the events of 2019 in the context of earlier episodes in Hong Kong’s history such as the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 1967 riots ... This fascinating read is essential for anyone interested in the current affairs of Hong Kong, specifically, and China, generally.
...an extensive narrative of the anti-extradition protests that shook Hong Kong last year ... As it looks for the meaning of the resistance campaign, it goes beyond the simplistic binaries of optimism and pessimism as it ponders the future ... one of the year’s most crucial reads, not just because of its timeliness, but also its analysis of the historical and cultural significance of the act of dissent, which offers ways of thinking about the event in relation to the ongoing development of political awareness in Hong Kong ... While City on Fire claims to dwell on the relation between protest tactics and the public mood, there are instances where it falls short in getting to the heart of sentiments that are deep-rooted in the community ... an urgent record that will sharpen our sensitivity to the past and what to look forward to in the years to come.
... resists the temptation of trying to either predict the future or suggest that this story is finished ... This is a book aimed at those who kept one eye on the news, and now want a more detailed account. Dapiran does a good job of explaining some of the more complex aspects of Hong Kong’s political structure, and its relationship with Beijing, but generally eschews analysis in favor of this informative, linear account of events ... Perhaps what is most remarkable about City on Fire is the speed with which it has been written and published. It gives a sense of immediacy and lived experience which is powerful and compelling; there is a rawness to passages of the book, and a sense of the unresolved trauma that last summer marked. The book is at its best when we get the visceral, first hand experience of the protest movement ... It is not a fight which has universal support, as Dapiran notes, citing a poll showing 59 percent support for the protests in Hong Kong—but the book chooses to leave to one side any detailed investigation into what the other 41 percent of Hong Kongers think and feel.
But, disappointingly, Dapiran’s book is one-sided and one-dimensional. It does not give us a thoroughly nuanced insight into the complicated reality ... Dapiran certainly writes lucidly about the demonstrators’ varied strategies and explains in useful detail how the 2019 protest movement forms part of a history of dissent in the city of Hong Kong ... confrontation hasn’t worked. Dialogue might. But that should be left to the people of Hong Kong without the interference of grandstanding Western politicians uber-keen to bash China.
Readers may feel like they are on a journey in Hong Kong with Daprian as he unravels the intellectual and political developments of these movements and how the Hong Kong government responded and attempted to contain the protests. Drawing on a variety of sources—newspapers, social media, radio broadcasts, policy papers—Daprian explains the rise and implosion of the protests led by mostly youths and college students, and the economic, political, and cultural ramifications for Hong Kong. Readers interested in Hong Kong’s history and politics and the history of social movements will find this engaging, engrossing book to be crucial in understanding the role of political demonstration in contemporary Hong Kong.