... captures how much has been wrested from Hong Kong’s people—a measure of how far Beijing is willing to go to destroy liberal institutions and democratic norms and ensure its tight lock on the power of the Chinese Communist Party ... Mr. Clifford aptly concludes by wondering whether 'Hong Kong can be both a global financial center and a city that holds political prisoners.'
... a journalistic book in the traditional sense, offering readers a rapid-fire recounting of the key events from the Occupy movement to the arrests of prominent politicians and journalists in 2020 and 2021. He also takes time to delve into the history of the handover negotiations between Britain and China, as well as the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, which plunged Hong Kong into crisis and prompted a wave of emigration ... Clifford is angry and unsparing in his criticisms of China’s communist leaders and Hong Kong’s local officials ... Clifford lived in Hong Kong long enough to gain status as a permanent resident with voting rights. But he still at times writes about the city as an expatriate outside observer looking in. He sprinkles his chapters with a few characters — his barber, a financial professional, an art gallery owner and his Cantonese teacher, whose goal was to compile the first dictionary of Cantonese. But these characters are rarely fully developed beyond a few pages, and most quickly disappear...He also devotes surprisingly scant attention to the protests that erupted in early June 2019 and continued into early 2020.
Clifford’s authoritative reportage makes for gripping reading. But the book gets bogged down in repetition and starts to feel like a long-form magazine feature stretched across 300 pages. His assertion that China’s ambition is to suppress free thought the world over feels underbaked, despite numerous examples of China pulling levers of intimidation beyond its borders. Like Russian disinformation campaigns, it’s hard to know the scale and reach of China’s harassment methods abroad, and unfortunately, Clifford fails to shed much more light than what has already been reported in the mainstream media.