Among the Braves: Hope, Struggle, and Exile in the Battle for Hong Kong and the Future of Global Democracy
Through the eyes of two frontline journalists comes a gripping narrative history of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement centered around a cast of four core activists, culminating in the 2019 mass protests and Beijing's brutal crackdown.
Hong Kong was an experiment in governance. Handed back to China in 1997 after 156 years of British rule, it was meant to be a carve-out between hostile systems: a bridge between communism and capitalism, authoritarianism and liberal democracy. “One country, two systems” kept its media free, its courts independent and its protests boisterous, designed also to convince Taiwan of a peaceful solution to Beijing’s desire for reunification.
Yet this formulation excluded Hong Kong’s own people, their future negotiated by political titans in faraway capitals. In 2019, an ill-conceived law spear-headed by a sycophantic leader pushed millions to take to the streets in one of the most enduring protest movements the world has ever seen. Xi Jinping responded with a draconian national security law that sought not only to end the demonstrations but quash the “problem” of Hong Kongers’ identity and desire for freedom.
Reverend Chu, who believed Hong Kong had to carry the spirit of students at Tiananmen Square, saw his silver-haired comrades who birthed the city’s modern pro-democracy movement handcuffed and taken from their homes. Tommy, an art student radicalized into throwing Molotov cocktails, watched “braves” like him brutalized by police before his own arrest prompted him to flee. Finn epitomized the decentralized nature of the movement and its internet-fueled victories, but online anonymity couldn’t stop his life from unravelling. Gwyneth could predict her eventual fate when she chose to give up her career as a journalist to stand for election as an opposition candidate, and did it anyway.
In Among the Braves, Shibani Mahtani and Timothy McLaughlin tell the story of Hong Kong’s past, and what the sacrifices of its people mean for global democracy’s shaky foundation.
Praise for Among the Braves: Hope, Struggle, and Exile in the Battle for Hong Kong and the Future of Global Democracy
"All of the fault lines shaping our world converged in the inspiring rise and tragic demise of Hong Kong’s protest movement--democracy and authoritarianism, capitalism and technology, nationalism and the individual yearning for liberty and community. In Among the Braves, Shibani Mahtani and Timothy McLaughlin tell a gripping, propulsive story that puts us inside the harrowing experience of people on the front lines of history, while also showing us the broader context of an increasingly assertive China determined to stamp out dissent. This is the very best kind of journalism--smart, painstaking, empathetic, and beautifully rendered.”—Ben Rhodes, author of After The Fall and The World As It Is
“Seamlessly weaving history with the personal stories of brave Hong Kongers fighting to preserve the spirit of their city, Mahtani and McLaughlin deliver a poignant must-read, as they dissect exactly how democracy and freedom are lost.”—Kim Ghattas, author of Black Wave and The Secretary
“Among the Braves is a piercing revelation….Mahtani and McLaughlin paint a vivid portrait of Hong Kong’s vibrant streets, once pulsating with hope and promise, now shrouded by the shadows of oppression. They bring us into the lives of remarkable individuals, unsung heroes—whose defiance against insurmountable odds transformed them into symbols of resistance and resilience….This is a must-read for anyone who cherishes liberty.”—Maria Ressa, co-founder, Rappler and co-recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize
"Among the Braves entwines the activists' stories with a chronicle of Hong Kong's decades-old protest movement, stretching from the Tianenmen Square massacre in 1989, through the Umbrella protests of 2014, to the unrest in 2019. It lays bare the incompetence of politicians in dealing with each unfolding crisis...The result is a book that is both a page-turner and a succinct history."—The Economist
“A vivid and engrossing account of the city’s protest movement and its aftermath.”—The Wall Street Journal
"As I read, I got so swept up in the extremely well-told life stories in the book...I came away with a renewed appreciation for the deeply tragic fate of Hong Kong."—Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink
"Mahtani and McLaughlin have written a heartfelt chronicle of Hong Kong’s 2019-2020 democracy movement, centered on the courage, creativity, and sacrifice of its ‘braves’–the movement’s leading foot soldiers. This important book not only bears witness to those who put everything on the line to keep the flame of freedom and justice alive in Hong Kong, but implicitly pays tribute to the millions doing similarly around the world to defend their democratic rights and dignity in the face of autocratic assault. A timely and important read."—Amb. Derek Mitchell, president, National Democratic Institute
"Among the Braves charts the struggles of a younger generation of Hong Kongers in the glare of media spotlights as well as in the trenches of their daily lives. They exhibit both virtues and flaws; they rise and they fall. Continually, though, they walk off the page, grab you by the lapels, and make you look."
—Perry Link, coauthor of I Have No Enemies: The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo
“[A] powerful and moving debut…. Mahtani and McLaughlin weave an exhilarating narrative, full of fear and hope, frenetic improvisation, and terrifying street violence. The result is a gripping account of one of the great political tragedies of our time.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)
"In this captivating and illuminating examination of activism in Hong Kong, journalists
Mahtani and McLaughlin balance historical context with up-to-the-minute reporting to convey the
current climate in Hong Kong and its global implications....Written with urgency, Among the Braves chronicles the courage and dedication of activists in the face of harsh responses from the pro-Beijing government. As many of the main subjects of the book are currently imprisoned or in exile, Mahtani and McLaughlin’s report is an essential look at threats to modern democracy."—Booklist (starred)
"Compelling and poignant insider tales of China’s devastatingly complete anti-democracy actions."
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“A multi-dimensional yet intimate portrait of the 2019 protests.”—Asian Affairs journal