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Coming up for Air﹕Protect. Support. Defend.

【明報專訊】IT has been an emotional few weeks for us at the bookshop. During that time Hong Kong saw not one but two precedent‑setting protests. 1.03 million. 2 million plus "one". The numbers alone are staggering (驚人的). But not as staggering as the camaraderie (志同道合感) and civic pride that one experienced at the marches.

As a bookshop that caters to readers of all interests and persuasions we make an effort to stay out of politics. We don't advertise our politics and we don't stock books based on the politics of their authors or their content. It's a bit like the separation of church and state. Our political views are our church and the bookshop our state. The two generally don't mix.

But recent events changed that, and we have become more vocal in our stances and our views of what has been happening in and around Hong Kong.

First came June 4th and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square movement. We hosted an event at the bookshop to mark the occasion that was organised by our good friend Tammy Ho Lai-ming, vice president of PEN Hong Kong and co-founder of Cha, a popular online literary journal and tireless advocate of the literary arts. The event attracted a sizeable and diverse crowd; indeed the largest we've ever had for a bookshop event. The mood of those who attended the event can be best described as sombre and urgent.

Next came June 9th and June 12th. On June 9th, an estimated 1.03 million people took to the streets in an unprecedented display of anger at the government and its efforts to pass the extradition bill. What started as a mostly peaceful march ended with an ugly confrontation between some protestors and the police in the early morning hours of June 10th, a confrontation that would intensify and bleed into the protests of June 12th.

The protests of June 12th also happened to be precedent‑setting but for all the wrong reasons. That day the police used levels of force against the protestors never before seen in Hong Kong, almost all of whom were unarmed and younger, including bean bag rounds and rubber bullets among other instruments of violence.

All the while the government tinkered around the edges offering half‑hearted (不情願的) apologies, shifting blame, and urging a return to business as usual.

So on June 16th even more people came out to protest. Estimates of the turnout came in at around two million. Unlike the march of June 9th, the mood among those who attended this march was less tense but more unified in opposition to the administration and the direction in which it seems to be taking Hong Kong.

Given this historic backdrop we believe we have a civic duty to speak up and give voice to a movement that has commanded the attention of the world. It is a movement that is not completely sure of where it is going but knows of what it is doing here and now: that is, posing thorny, urgent questions to and demanding answers from their representatives in government about the future of Hong Kong.

We don't expect that our presence or our voice alone will make a difference. There are many other people out there who are smarter, braver, and far more informed than we are and whose presence or absence will make a difference.

But we believe any movement that challenges authority, as this one does, needs a line of defence that will give those in power pause (使……認真考慮) in their responses and their methods. It is a line of defence that signals to our leaders that we are watching you and we are ready to respond should you place our brothers and sisters in harm's way.

So we contribute to this bulwark (堡壘) in whatever way we can: by marching and writing, by being vigilant and responsive, and by exposing lies when we see them. It is but a small price to pay as we, too, have reaped the benefits of those before us who have fought for similar causes.

■Writer's Profile

Albert Wan is the co‑founder and proprietor of Bleak House Books, an English language bookstore in San Po Kong.

Email: albert@bleakhousebooks.com.hk

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