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Be Water, Hong Kong: The Birth Of The First Diasporic Hongkonger Magazine In Taiwan

In February 2020, the first physical diasporic Hongkonger magazine —Flow HK (如水), or “Be Water” in Chinese—was printed in Taiwan. The magazine aims to take advantage of press freedom overseas, building and preserving a platform for public discussion on Hong Kong affairs. The editorial board consists of diasporic Hongkongers in their mid-twenties, including Sunny Cheung Kwan-yang (張崑陽), Brian Leung Kai-ping (梁繼平), and Alex Chow Yong-kang (周永康), all of whom are in overseas exile. Also on board are Taiwan-based members including Chiang Min-yen (江旻諺) who is familiar with the situation of Hongkongers in Taiwan, and Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History. An advisor, mentor, and friend to this group of diasporic Hongkongers, Wu is also known for his Chinese-language translation of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (《想像的共同體:民族主義的起源與散布》).

In terms of its significance to the pro-democracy movement, this magazine is a living embodiment of an imagined Hong Kong community under the shadow of the Hong Kong National Security Law. It is a platform that safeguards freedom of speech for diasporic Hongkongers. The Reporter interviewed the editorial board of Flow HK to find out why they decided to publish in Taiwan and how they intended to keep the current of the Hong Kong protests flowing across borders.

In a New Taipei City printing house, the printing presses rumbled and rolled, giving birth to copy after copy of the inaugural issue of Flow HK. On the cover, billowing yellow waves prop up a paper boat carrying the lyrics of “May Glory be to Hong Kong” and other Hong Kong protest anthems. Below the wall of water is a small yellow umbrella, unbent despite the surging waters. In the era of the National Security Law, as the space for free speech within Hong Kong’s borders tightens, this quarterly magazine carries on the spirit of “protesting like water” or “Be Water.” In early February 2021, the magazine was dispatched from Taiwan into the hands of nearly 1,000 subscribers around the world. (Editor's Note)
Flow HK launched its inaugural issue in early January 2021. Because the printing schedule was delayed for a week, the inaugural issue was printed and dispatched in early February.
Half of the subscribers hail from Hong Kong. A fourth are from Taiwan, and the remainder are from Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and other recent destinations for diasporic Hongkongers.

To set up a physical magazine while being separated by oceans is not an easy task. To do so while shouldering the mission of breaking through media blockades and broadcasting political thought, as Flow HK has been doing, is even harder. “Uncle,” a Hongkonger living in Taiwan who was overseeing the printing at the printing house, is one of Flow HK’s graphic designers. He said that Flow HK’s breakthrough is just like the present state of Hong Kong. “Even if it continues to be arduous, there are always things that are worth doing.”

Enlightenment: The Tangwai Magazines of Martial Law-Era Taiwan

At the end of June 2020, Hong Kong’s National Security Law was officially promulgated. Numerous protesters and political figures fled into overseas exile, including Sunny Cheung, the former spokesperson of the Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation who has been actively involved in international lobbying since the beginning of the anti-extradition law bill (“anti-ELAB”) protests and who once participated in the pro-democracy camp’s primary for the Legislative Council elections.

The situation in Hong Kong is very similar to the martial law period in Taiwan, an observation which prompted Sunny Cheung to think of the magazine The Tâi-oân Chheng-liân (“Taiwan Youth”), which once was banned in Taiwan. This magazine, which explored society, nationhood, democracy, identity formation and local culture, was a source of great enlightenment for Cheung. In late October 2020, he took the initiative and made preparations for the launch of Flow HK, a platform that would safeguard public debate on Hong Kong issues.

At that time, because of the COVID-19 gathering restrictions and the National Security Law, the protest movement within Hong Kong’s borders had fallen to its nadir. Those diasporic Hongkongers who had at the start intended to search for a way forward for the movement quickly connected with one another. Helmed by editor-in-chief Sunny Cheung, the editorial board includes Alex Chow, student leader in the Umbrella Movement; Brian Leung, former editor-in-chief of The Undergrad (學苑) who participated in the occupation of the Legislative Council during the anti-ELAB protests; Ray Wong, convener of localist organization Hong Kong Indigenous (本土民主前線), and others. A number of them had already received political asylum, or else had moved abroad for college long before the anti-ELAB movement. Apart from their shared backgrounds in social and student movements, many of them also demonstrated solid academic and rhetorical skills.

In January 2021, Flow HK announced the founding of their magazine. Its inaugural statement follows:

“We have decided to take advantage of press freedom overseas, building and preserving a platform for public discussion on Hong Kong affairs. We aim to introduce issues including politics, history, society, and culture for readers both within and beyond Hong Kong. Through historical analysis, theoretical frameworks and reflections on future movement trajectories, we hope to link each Hong Kong participant of this liberation movement, empowering them with critical thinking.”

Entanglement: Starting From a Place of a Settled Mind

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Flow HK’s only Taiwanese editorial board member Chiang Min-Yen (middle), reviewing the edition of the magazine at the printing house with graphic designers “Uncle” (right) and mido (left). Photo by Cai Yao-zheng (蔡耀徵).

The inaugural issue takes “Entanglement” as its theme. From the levels of social movement, society, nation, and the world, it explores how these “fetters” influence the identity of Hongkongers, dictate the course of social movements, and control Hong Kong’s state of affairs.

Convener of the now-disbanded Hong Kong pro-democracy party Demosistō and former Legislative Council member Nathan Law Kwun-chung (羅冠聰) is one of Flow HK’s consultants. Now exiled in the UK, he expressed that diasporic Hongkongers should not direct their energies solely towards a narrow definition of “protest”; rather, they should do their best within their own capacities, and redirect available resources back to the movement. This could be the common ground for different generations of protestors. He would not see Flow HK simply as a platform for the “international front” (國際戰線) of the movement. Be it the exploration of the movement’s future directions, the cultivation of Hong Kong culture, or the attraction of future readers, Flow HK should have its own organic and vital mechanism.

Chiang Min-Yen , the only Taiwanese editorial board member of Flow HK, was the former deputy editor-in-chief of the University of Hong Kong publication, The Undergrad.  He had witnessed the drastic changes in Hong Kong social thinking since the Umbrella Movement. He recalled that The Undergrad had influenced previous social and student movements in Hong Kong. In each issue, new social movement discourses would be introduced. Compared with Flow HK, “the theme of the inaugural issue is relatively conservative. It is conservative not in its stance but in terms of how it could further the movement.”

This might be a reflection of diasporic Hongkongers’ psychological status. In less than two years, Hong Kong had undergone drastic changes. Many Hongkongers were wanted, forced into exile, and stranded overseas. They were uncertain where the future lies. Chiang Min-Yen observed that Hongkongers need to resettle themselves before taking the next step: “The editorial board members should be looking inward instead of glancing forward.”

Risks: Trespassing the Red Line of the Hong Kong National Security Law

The anti-ELAB movement undermined Hongkongers’ trust in the “One country, Two systems” policy. Strategies of resistance changed from putting pressure on the governments of Hong Kong and China to lobbying for international assistance. The “international front” thus became an indispensable part of the movement. However, due to the differential nature of the lobbying work across different countries, those participating in the “international front” could rarely come across one another, except for co-authoring articles in response to major events in Hong Kong. The preparation work for Flow HK provided them with a rare opportunity for mutual collaboration.

Wu Rwei-ren, associate research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, is familiar with Hong Kong affairs. He observed that the launching of Flow HK could be regarded as the first attempt at cross-national networking since the emergence of the diasporic Hongkonger movement.

The staff members of Flow HK are mostly in their twenties. While working and studying overseas, they engaged in the editorial work deemed subversive by the Hong Kong National Security Law. Even though they initially left Hong Kong for non-political reasons, they might have already stepped into the path of overseas exile.

“This is a process of redrawing boundaries and reevaluating how we should participate in the movement. Once you join, you might not be able to return to Hong Kong in the short run.” Some editorial board members decided to adopt a pseudonym, yet Chiang Min-Yen believed that risks cannot be entirely ruled out.

“This is a heavy burden. I have thought about this for a few weeks. Can I reveal myself (on the editorial board), or is that necessary? I can’t really foresee the possible repercussions.” Alex Chow went silent for a minute, though he had just been sharing his observations on Hong Kong affairs in the United States.

In 2017, Alex Chow became the first batch of political prisoners in Hong Kong for “Occupying the Civic Square” (重奪公民廣場行動), the prelude of the Umbrella movement. Together with Joshua Wong, secretary-general of the pro-democracy party Demosistō, and Nathan Law, chairman of the party, Alex Chow was sentenced for “unlawful assembly” and served two months in prison. In 2018, he went to the United States for doctoral studies. His family is still in Hong Kong. “I have to be prepared for the scenario [of not being able to return to Hong Kong in the short run], and during the editorial process I have been trying to figure out what everyone wants to do.”

Connections: A New Political Practice for Protestors From Different Political Spectrum

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In 2018, Alex Chow went to the U.S. for doctoral studies. He and a few Hongkongers there organized pro-Hong Kong solidarity events, exploring Hong Kong related issues with which different generations of Hongkongers in the United States are concerned. However, having his real name revealed on the list of editorial board members of Flow HK is equivalent to violating the Hong Kong National Security Law. He might not be able to return to Hong Kong in the short term. For Alex Chow, this is a difficult decision to make. It took him several weeks to make up his mind. Photo by AFP/PHILIPPE LOPEZ.

The editorial board members of Flow HK belong to different political spectrums. In Hong Kong, they were either leaders of social and student movements or participated in international lobbying during the anti-ELAB movement. Although they all sought to contribute to the democratization of Hong Kong, their political ideals and practices were not without contradictions. Some followed moderate lines of resistance, others sought more radical means or even fought for Hong Kong independence. “We all know each other, but we don’t really work together. Co-organizing a magazine in Hong Kong is most unlikely to happen. It’s just that at this moment, we have the opportunity to explore things together,” said Alex Chow.

Since the formation of the editorial board at the end of October 2020, board members had undertaken intensive discussion sessions, brainstorming and exchanging comments and ideas for different pieces of writing. Alex Chow observed that this was an unprecedented level of collaboration. “We rarely have such room for discussion between participants [from different political spectrums] in the movement.”

To engage with different readers, the editorial board carefully discussed the use of words and phrases: Hongkongers or national citizens? China or the CCP? How would readers from different generations understand and respond to their work?

Alex Chow observed that turning ideas into words is a process of trust building. “Out of our love of Hong Kong, we sit together and share a common calling.” Borrowing the words of Brian Leung, another editorial board member, he said, “Hong Kong belongs to everyone who shares its pain.” In the face of their devastated homeland, Flow HK functions as an imagined community of pain. Out of pain, the search for hope becomes an urgent, communal task for the board members. “Some of us said that this is a means of self-salvation.”

He also reflected on his own political trajectory. “How could we reduce the divergence we had in the previous movements? Is our hostility against one another necessary? Flow HK is not only a magazine, but also gestures towards a new political practice.”

Alex Chow’s self-reflection partially corresponded to a question raised by many when Flow HK announced its plans to launch: “How should activists from different political spectrums find a common ground for collaboration?”  Alex Chow finally decided to use his real name on the list of editorial board members. “Well, I was really moved by everyone else, and felt that my full participation is necessary in the community. What else can we do at a time like this?” His initial worries however materialized.  In early January 2021, when Flow HK announced on Facebook its plans to launch, pro-China Hong Kong media including Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po immediately named their group “subversive elements” allegedly violating the National Security Law through their “pro-independence” publication.

Chiang Min-Yen observed that when the editorial board members discussed their major concerns for Hong Kong, their views actually resonated with each other. “In the past, they were often placed at two opposite sides of the political spectrum. Most often than not, disputes among the masses surpassed that of the leading figures of the movement.” Their current collaboration opened new ways to restructure the social movement.

According to Wu Rwei-ren, the identity formation of the younger generation of Hongkongers had begun to shift since the mass protest against the implementation of Moral and National Education Policy (反國教運動) in 2012. After the Umbrella movement, Beijing could have offered Hongkongers an improved mechanism for universal suffrage. Instead, it chose to tighten its control over Hong Kong. The mutual suppression from the Chinese and Hong Kong government fueled the shifting changes in Hongkongers’ sense of identification. Between 2015 and 2016, student associations and unions from almost all universities in Hong Kong had adopted nativism (本土主義) as a common standpoint. During the anti-ELAB movement, suppression from both governments intensified, spreading the ideas of nativism across the entire younger generation of Hongkongers. This had in turn unified the various factions of the democracy movement.

While there might still be subtle differences in terms of the protesters’ political orientation, a consensus organized around the nativist identity of Hongkongers had been reached. “Without this commonality, they (editorial board members) would not have come together.”

Nodal Point: Taiwan’s Irreplaceable Role and Power

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Chiang Min-Yen is familiar with the affairs of Hongkongers in Taiwan. He believes that given its history of authoritarian governance and current resistance against China—a historical pattern that overlaps with what Hongkongers are facing—Taiwan plays an irreplaceable role in the overseas movement of diasporic Hongkongers. Photo by Cai Yao-zheng.

Before the publication of Flow HK, members of the editorial board had been actively reaching out to the public through various channels, and they had accumulated readers and their feedback on social media networks.  Compared with social media communications, the spread of information through print magazines has its limits. Why was Flow HK published in physical format instead of a digital one?

Chiang Min-Yen suggested that the discussion platforms popular among diasporic Hongkongers lack horizontal connections, and the discussion topics are either too divergent or disorganized. The editorial board members shared similar opinions: in social media, it is more difficult to systematically organize a discussion thread around a singular issue. Facing the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law which triggered explosive internal pressure in Hong Kong society, they would be happy to seize any opportunity to create a platform for public discussion among Hongkongers. Why not publish the magazine in print format if such an option exists?  In addition, print publication creates physical connections among Hongkongers, connections that transcend the abstract interactions people experience on social media. Print publication serves as an excellent opportunity to create a sense of community—both real and imagined—for diasporic Hongkongers.  On the practical level, Economic Democracy Union (經濟民主連合), a think tank where Chiang works as a researcher, can directly act as a publishing house for the magazine. Economic Democracy Union is a non-profit organization that was born during the Anti-Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) Movement, better known as the Sunflower Movement in 2014. Since the beginning of the anti-ELAB movement in Hong Kong, this NGO has worked with many civic groups to provide practical support to Hongkongers—among which is a civilian network that provides shelter for the protestors. Without question, it is supportive of the publication of Flow HK. However, in consideration of the difficulties involved in shipping the print magazine to Hong Kong, Flow HK is also available in a paid digital format. The Hongkonger members of the editorial board might have passionate attachments to the magazine, given their love and sense of responsibility for Hong Kong. As a Taiwanese who had only spent four years at the University of Hong Kong, why was Chiang willing to invest himself in this risky business?   As Chiang explained, in the face of similar threats from China, there would be points of convergence between the road to resistance among Taiwanese and Hongkongers. Taiwan would play an irreplaceable role in the overseas movement of diasporic Hongkongers, whether in the shared historical struggle against authoritarianism or the contemporary refusal of Chinese hegemony and domination.  He also suggested that through the publication process of Flow HK in Taiwan, the convergence of strength from the civil society of Taiwan and Hong Kong could be seen. More importantly, a community of collaborators had been quickly formed around the project. This was unprecedented in other civil societies overseas. “The role of Taiwanese is often the most prominent at this critical moment.”

Also worthy to mention is that because of the geopolitical and historical proximity between Taiwan and Hong Kong, many Hong Kong protesters are not strangers to Taiwanese activists and scholars. Indeed, a person like Chiang who had social movement experiences in Hong Kong and initiated a civic group for Hongkongers in Taiwan would act as a nodal point connecting people from the two places. “Everyone knows the people from my social network in Taiwan.” Wu Rwei-ren is one such familiar figure from this social network. Along with Chaing, he co-founded the civic group called  “Taiwan Citizens Front” (台灣公民陣線).

“I Just Can’t Bear to See a Generation Destroyed”

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Seeing a group of his beloved students and friends prosecuted, imprisoned, and forced into overseas exile, Wu Rwei-ren, associate research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, described the situation as “heartbreaking” a few times during the interview. Photo by Cai Yao-zheng.

In his office at the Joint Library of Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica, Wu Rwei-ren was sitting on his sofa. Once, his office was frequented by young Hongkongers who came and discussed the crisis and prospects of Hong Kong with him. Now, those young people were either forced into overseas exile or being prosecuted and imprisoned under the National Security Law.  He received many messages resembling suicide notes during this time. The connections between Wu and Hong Kong began on the eve of the Umbrella Movement, when Hong Kong students started to seriously reflect upon their nativist identity. It was the first generation of Hong Kong people who did not consider themselves Chinese, and this sense of identification created an incommensurable difference between their generation and the previous one. Most Hong Kong scholars avoided this sensitive and dangerous research subject. Students who could not find an academic mentor in Hong Kong would reach out to Wu in Taiwan. These students were particularly inspired by his Chinese-language translation and analysis of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.  Wu Rwei-ren had never taught in Hong Kong. In 2014, after being invited to write an article for Hong Kong Nationalism (香港民族論), he had been barred from entering Hong Kong ever since. Hong Kong students had exchanged correspondence with him. During winter and summer vacations, they would visit him in Taiwan for discussion. In principle, he would only exchange thoughts and ideas with students but would not participate in the social movement itself.  “I am simply thinking that if no one in Hong Kong is willing to supervise these students, I will do it myself. I hope to prepare them to grow up as scholars and professionals. By 2047, it will be their turn to negotiate with Beijing. By then they will be capable and mature enough to deal with Beijing. What I now see is that the best minds of their generation were destroyed by Beijing. Many of them were forced to flee instead of growing up.”

In retrospect of what took place from 2019 till now, Wu Rwei-ren described himself as shocked, even though he is familiar with the situation in Hong Kong.  “Until very late, no one felt that what they did (during the anti-ELAB movement) was illegal. The conflict was escalating. The more you suppressed it, the more people counteracted. Beijing’s policy of governing Hong Kong has changed rapidly. These young Hongkongers acted without a master plan, and they were always affected by changing circumstances. In a blink of an eye, an endpoint was reached, and the political space in Hong Kong vanished.  These young people couldn’t return to Hong Kong. They had to flee. Now, they have no other means but to make a magazine. Isn’t it the case only because they were forced into exile?” He said with agitation and sadness: “When I saw Kai-ping (梁繼平) rushing into to the Legislative Council and taking off his mask, I knew it’s all over. But could I just be a bystander? I could only help as much as possible. What I didn’t expect is that it was only a beginning: the situation would worsen, and Hong Kong would be put under siege.” But acting as a consultant for Flow HK is equivalent to getting involved in the social movement. Wu Rwei-ren emphasized: “I am not participating in the movement as a revolutionary mentor. I am doing this out of personal affection. There’s not a tiny bit of rational calculation involved. I just can’t bear to see a generation destroyed. These young people are my favorites. I see them as my students, friends, and family . . . Well, I think it also involves some sense of righteousness. After this incident, I realized that many revolutions in history might have followed this pattern: things all go unplanned. What [the magazine] these young people are doing now is to find a way to survive under their difficult exile.” “It seems that they had long regarded me as part of their group. Things [having me as a consultant] had all been decided in advance. All they did was to inform me of their decision. Could I say ‘No’ to them? This was almost like what they used to say, ‘Professor Wu, we are coming to Taiwan to see you next week.’ At first glance, there might be some semblance between the past and present situation. Yet, I can see a drastic difference in what’s unfolding now.”

Ordeal: The Limits of Human Rights Discourses and the Misguided Path of the Tiananmen Exiles

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Nathan Law, a former member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council who is currently in exile in the UK, is actively considering how to mobilize the agency of the exiles. Photo by AFP/TIZIANA FABI

What is the next step for the international front? Diasporic Hongkongers understand that human rights discourses might have their limits. They must try to explore local issues and connections, finding Hong Kong’s position in the field of international politics and power struggles. They cannot rely on the stand-alone effort of a small number of opinion leaders, nor could they adopt the anti-ELAB movement’s strategy of “leaderless-ness” (無大台).  Hong Kong communities from across the world must assemble themselves into a more politically effective entity. Overcoming the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic will be one of their most urgent tasks.  “In the face of a new life and environment, how can overseas exiles deal with the challenges of assimilation while sustaining the imagined community of Hongkongers?”  Alex Zhou pointed out the next challenges facing diasporic Hongkongers.  According to Nathan Law, Hongkongers organized their diasporic community around political factors instead of economic concerns and opportunities. This diasporic community is still at its early formative stage—how to consolidate and develop trust among its members is not an easy task. Initially, exchanges might be deepened through project-based advocacy work for international solidarity. Otherwise, without its “social fabric,” an empty organization will be worse than nothing. Community building will inevitably be delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is difficult to have public activities during the city lockdown in the UK. He is preparing to write an English-language book deepening international readers’ knowledge of the Hong Kong protests.  How long can the diasporic Hongkonger movement last? Numerous public opinions have predicted that the movement will follow the path of the Tiananmen exiles: there will be struggle over resources and leadership, eventually the movement will collapse from within or without. Wu Rwei-ren believed that the breakdown of the Tiananmen exiles’ movement had something to do with its lack of subjectivity. Based upon his understanding of these diasporic Hongkongers, their movement will not repeat the same mistakes. In the short run, the diasporic Hongkonger movement should adopt a development mechanism with a multi-centered yet interconnected network, avoiding internal struggles and conflicts. Wu Rwei-ren had met many exiled activists while studying abroad. He understood the challenging hardships awaiting these young people. “The Hong Kong mass arrest of democratic figures took place in January 2021. Someone asked me if the mass arrest resembled the Formosa Incident (美麗島事件) in Taiwan. I would say that it was more like the 228 Incident. The mass arrest during the Formosa Incident prefigured the later democratization of Taiwanese society. The 228 Incident however signaled the beginning of authoritarian rule.” Diasporic Hongkongers might need to count their years of exile using the unit of a decade or two. “You have to first settle down in one place, find a job, start a family, accept all these, and continue to do what you want to do.” Wu Rwei-ren pointed out that as the international front stretches into a protracted struggle, those in the movement could not simply rely on the sympathy of supporters [as their political resources]. Instead, they should build a global community of diasporic Hongkongers, using this community as the basis upon which to develop and organize political, cultural, economic, and other functional organizations for counterattack. “In this sense, the international front at this stage should also shift from short-term lobbying led by leaders of the movement to cultivating locally grounded and long-term connections, eventually transforming that energy into an organized and regularized form of parliamentary lobbying.” He raised the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA; 台灣人公共事務會) as an example. FAPA was initiated by a group of Taiwanese in the United States. They have economic resources and votes and can lobby in the US Congress by participating in local activities or donating money to political parties. Formed in the 1970s by Taiwanese associations of various countries, The World Federation of Taiwanese Associations (WFTA; 世界台灣同鄉會聯合會) has long supported Taiwan’s democratic movement. Founded in 2016, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is the largest Taiwanese think tank in Washington established by Victor Huang (黃文局), a US-based Taiwanese businessman who has long sponsored the Taiwanese democracy movement and raised nearly USD 30 million of funds from prominent individuals. The think tank aims to speak for Taiwan at the center of power. From building organizations to exerting influence, overseas Taiwanese have managed to establish their network out of nothing for the past 30 years. Given the existing network of overseas Hong Kong associations, things should be easier for the younger generation of diasporic Hongkongers.

Taiwan Stands With Hong Kong: Building a Safe Cultural Haven for “Overseas Hong Kong”

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In the face of totalitarianism, Hongkongers still have to “be water” and walk this long road. Photo by Cai Yao-zheng.

What role can Taiwan play in the new stage of the international front? Chiang Min-Yen believed that the “Taiwan Stands with Hong Kong” network (撐港台灣線) is peculiar in the sense that it is not only led by Taiwanese but also follows local Hong Kong affairs closely. A network of collaboration between Taiwan and Hong Kong has been formed, but can Taiwanese activists empathize with the local context of Hong Kong’s protests? Do Taiwanese understand Hong Kong enough? Under the National Security Law, how could the acts of resistance reverberating between Taiwan and Hong Kong proceed? Facing these challenges, the existing mode of collaboration between the civil society of Taiwan and Hong Kong might need to be restructured.

He pointed out that “supporting Hong Kong while resisting China” is an important political objective of Taiwan’s civil society. As a subject of action, Hongkongers in Taiwan need to identify their own position in the movement. The more Taiwan and Hong Kong understand each other, the more they can develop policies that meet each other’s needs.

According to Wu Rwei-ren, given the pressure from the Chinese Communist Party and the “hostage-like” status of its officials in Hong Kong, the Taiwanese government has retained a conservative attitude towards the political activities of Hongkongers in Taiwan. Taiwan currently functions as a safe haven, helping to resettle Hongkongers who demonstrate relatively low levels of political sensitivity. It plays a low-key and logistical role in the democratization of Hong Kong. It is not easy for well-known exiles to use Taiwan as a long-term base.

He mentioned that the Taiwanese government had already done its best to assist Hong Kong citizens who entered the country through legal channels. Certain protesters who posed security concerns had also entered the country legally in the summer of 2019 and resettled. Yet with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the Hong Kong National Security Law’s scheme of prosecution, first-line protesters or dissidents who need immediate assistance found themselves like birds in a cage. The Taiwanese government’s current mechanism of response can only assist Hongkongers who are not first-line protestors or people who do not face immediate prosecution, as well as Hongkongers who enter Taiwan as immigrants or students.

He speculated that this group of immigrants will not launch a high-profile political campaign at this stage. They will only organize more proactive assistance to Hong Kong once they resettle.

However, because of its press freedom, Taiwan still occupies an important role in the cultural promotion of “overseas Hong Kong.” Cultural intellectuals including Lam Wing-Kee (林榮基), Albert Leung (林夕), Anthony Wong (黃秋生), and the Hong Kong Film Awards Best New Director Norris Wong (黃綺琳) had immigrated or resettled to Taiwan. There are also many Hongkongers who wish to study in Taiwan. Together, they can promote cultural exchange between Taiwan and Hong Kong. This network of Hongkongers in Taiwan can serve as a basis to maintain the imagined community of diasporic Hongkongers, sustaining Hong Kong culture and language.

Flow as Water: Competing With Authoritarian Rule

When preparing for the next quarterly issue, the editorial board of Flow HK planned to diversify the content of their publication by calling for contributions, conducting interviews, organizing debates, adding a culture edition, and translating parts of the magazine content into the English-language. They also wished to recruit editorial board members from a more diversified background. In May 2021, the second issue was released under the theme “In Search of Time.” It explores the past, memory, and histories of Hong Kong beyond official narratives. The editorial board accepted open submission and added an “Art and Culture” edition to the new issue.

In an interview with The Reporter in 2020, Wu Rwei-ren mentioned that Hong Kong needs to see a homecoming of its intellectuals in the future. Now that Hong Kong is shrouded under the National Security Law, any published content in Hong Kong could be suspected of “inciting secession.” Wu Rwei-ren believed that Flow HK plays the role of intellectuals in creating new discourses, even though these intellectuals are located overseas. It is difficult for the editorial board to come into close contact with Hong Kong at the local level. Precisely because of their freedom overseas, they need to make a breakthrough and generate provocative thinking. These days, protesters often encourage one another using the Cantonese phrase: “let’s see who will first perish” (鬥命長). They aim to stay in good health and compete with authoritarian rule for longevity. In the United States, Alex Chow would occasionally go for a walk in the park, feeling the cool breeze, looking at squirrels and plants, and trying to empty his mind. After the UK went into lockdown, Nathan Law, a football lover, had to engage with the sport through online games. For a brief moment, he was no different than a regular young person. Regardless of how strong their will to resistance is, social actors are human beings after all. Self-care is also indispensable to this long journey of resistance.

※This report was produced by The Reporter and the Chinese branch of Radio Free Asia (RFA).

(To read the Chinese version of this article, please click:痛苦與希望的共同體──首本離散港人雜誌《如水》在台誕生)

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