Umbrella Revolution 2.0 – or something else? Antony Dapiran on the Hong Kong demonstrations | Sinica Podcast | SupChina

Umbrella Revolution 2.0 – or something else? Antony Dapiran on the Hong Kong demonstrations

Antony Dapiran is a seasoned corporate lawyer who has worked in Hong Kong and Beijing for the last two decades. In that time, he’s become a historian of protests in Hong Kong and the author of City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong (2017), which explores the idea of protest as an integral part of Hong Kong’s identity. In a conversation with Kaiser and Jeremy, Antony brings a historical perspective to his analysis of the current demonstrations over the highly unpopular extradition bill, the shelving of which has not slaked the anger of demonstrators.

He also wrote this op-ed for us earlier this week:

What is Hong Kong for? 

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

7:46: Reports emerged last week that suggested that the extradition bill, met with fierce opposition in Hong Kong, originated from the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, rather than in Beijing. Antony provides his take on this development: “People felt it could only be the hand of Beijing behind this, directing the Hong Kong administration to do it. Otherwise, why would it be done in such a roughshod fashion on such an issue that was clearly going to be of great sensitivity in Hong Kong and potentially against the interest of the Hong Kong community? Notwithstanding how surprising it is, it really does raise questions about the competence of Carrie Lam and her administration.”

12:10: Given the stark pushback against the bill, did Lam and her team see this coming? As a career civil servant, she has never had to undergo a general election, so this fumble could be a result of “cluelessness,” according to Antony. “There are a number of jokes going around Hong Kong that she doesn’t know how to catch the MTR, or that when she first moved into the Chief Executive’s residence, she didn’t know where to buy toilet paper.”

13:57: Is the comparison to the Umbrella Movement of 2015 an apt one? Antony gives us his opinion: “They organized and mobilized themselves rather by way of online chat forums, private messaging groups on Telegram and WhatsApp — it’s even being said that they’re using AirDrop to communicate instructions and messages on the ground. And that is a really strong contrast to the Umbrella Movement of five years ago, which, even as a student movement, had very clear leadership and was very much centrally organized.”

He continues, “I think part of the reason why the protesters, this time around, are avoiding that model is precisely a direct response to the Hong Kong government’s aggressive prosecution and jailing of the Umbrella Movement leaders.”

24:46: What has happened since the Umbrella Movement in 2015? “The Umbrella Movement was regarded as a failure — it didn’t achieve its aims,” Antony states. “And then, in the five years since then, the Hong Kong government has steadily tightened the screws on dissent in the city… Using the cover of the legal system and Hong Kong’s rule of law has resulted in what I call a campaign of ‘lawfare’ for that reason.”

35:57: What of the leadership in Beijing and its take on the protests, and the handling of the protests by the Hong Kong government? Antony explains: “The vacuum that’s likely to be left by the much diminished authority of Carrie Lam in itself presents either an opportunity or a threat.” The opportunity being that, while the Legislative Council has “almost been reduced to rubber stamp function,” this may reinvigorate legislators in Hong Kong — whereas the threat may be that Beijing sees the vacuum as Hong Kong’s inability to govern itself, and “decides that it needs to intervene.”


Jeremy: A Twitter account, @finnegansreader, which is a bot reading James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake line by line. There is a sister account for the author’s Ulysses, @ulyssesreader.

Antony: The author Dung Kai-cheung, and his masterpiece, Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City.

Kaiser: Total War: Three Kingdoms, a turn-based strategy game by Creative Assembly, and John Zhu’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms podcast.

Kaiser Kuo

Kaiser Kuo is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and editor-at-large of SupChina.


    1. Kaiser KuoKaiser Kuo Reply

      Stay tuned for next week, then. We spoke to Antony Dapiran again about this just a couple of days ago, and it will be out (for Access subscribers) on Monday and on Thursday for non-subscribers.

  1. J. W. Reply

    I don’t know if this message can reach Kaiser or Jeremy. Maybe I am just talking to a wall. But as a long time fan who has been listening to Sinica for years (and listened to Kaiser for even longer, as a metal head), I feel like I have to say something.

    This podcast is incredibly bad; lazily organized, and biased. Your guest’s shallow and biased opinions were only met with borderline cringy adulation, with no logical, not to say intellectual, challenges; which is very disappointing to say the least.

    I don’t know if anyone, including your guest who is supposedly a lawyer and writer, has actually read the so-called “extradition bill”. From the content of the podcast, my impression was that you have not. So here is the link:

    If I can direct your attention to Clause 4 (5) (b), which is on page 8, you should be able to see the following.

    “For the purposes of this Ordinance, an offence by a person against the law of a prescribed place is a relevant offence against that law if—
    (a) the offence is punishable under that law with imprisonment for more than 3 years, or any greater punishment; and
    (b) the acts or omissions constituting the conduct in respect of which the person’s surrender to that place is sought amount to conduct which, if the conduct had occurred in Hong Kong, would constitute an offence that is—
    (i) a specified Schedule 1 offence;
    (ii) triable in Hong Kong on indictment; and
    (iii) punishable in Hong Kong with imprisonment for more than 3 years, or any greater punishment.”

    Now I am just an ordinary engineer, and have no background in law whatsoever. But even I could figure out, after reading this maybe a dozen times, that you will only be extradited if you do something that can put you IN PRISON for OVER 3 YEARS in HONG KONG.

    Now can someone PLEASE explain to me, how can this law be used for persecution by the mainland Chinese government? Is it so hard for you NOT to commit a crime that can put you in prison for 3 years in Hong Kong? Mind you, this has NOTHING to do with MAINLAND CHINA’s law, or any other places’ laws for that matter, and only has to do with HONG KONG’s law. So long as you don’t commit a crime that is punishable under Hong Kong law for over 3 years, this bill doesn’t apply to you.

    Now if I may invoke an example given by your guest around the 27 min mark in the podcast, where he mentioned Hong Kong businessmen who visited “massage parlors” in mainland China might be in danger of extradition persecution – this makes me wonder whether he really knows what the hell he was talking about. Unless maybe your guest knows of a secret corner of Hong Kong where soliciting prostitutes is a 3-year sentence, then I stand corrected. But I doubt it.

    Second, I have to call out your guest at around 43 min mark where he said Hong Kong protesters are renowned for their “orderly conduct” during protests, and that there was no “property damage” or other uncivil behaviors. REALLY? How can he even say that with a straight face, when tons of images are available online showing broken windows, vandalized public properties, street signs/bricks/rocks being taken as weapon, and bloody police officers at the hands of the protesters, and so much more. But of course, these photos must be doctored by the Chinese propaganda department right? The idea that foreign forces such as CIA are involved is ridiculous, but Chinese secret agents are just for a fact everywhere. Solid logic.

    Lastly, I am simply astounded, that your guest can elevate Hong Kong’s constant protest as a “culture” and an “identity”, and publish a book about it. I feel like the west has lulled themselves into a false complacency that “free” equals “good” or “just”. Freedom of speech is only meaningful, if your speech has value. Otherwise it is just noise. Freedom to protest is only meaningful, if what you are protesting is valuable. Otherwise it is just riot. I believe at this point, it is clear that the current protest/riot has nothing to do with the law/bill or with protecting the Hong Kong-er’s rights, and has every bit to do with anti-China. Now of course the west consider everything anti-China an applaudable “culture”. But there is nothing proud or “cultural” about protesting just for the sake of protesting; it is no different than a kid rolling wailing on the floor when he doesn’t get what he want. Now your guest, and hundreds and thousands of Hong Kong rioters, have demonstrated just that.

    I feel like I may regret a lot of what I said after a few days, but I have to vent after listening to nearly an hour of unchallenged biased illogical bs. It is not just this one podcast; I feel that since you guys left China, the content of the podcast have shifted more and more towards the west mainstream media’s narrative. The reason I followed the podcast in the beginning, was that you guys were able to offer different perspectives. But I feel like this is slowly fading.

    I missed the days where you guys would talk about craft beers in Beijing Hutong. Sadly those days were long gone.

    1. Kaiser KuoKaiser Kuo Reply

      Thanks for your comments, however critical. We appreciate the feedback. I think you make some excellent points, and I’d love to talk to you more about this. Please either email me directly at kaiser – at- supchina-dot-com or respond here and tell me it’s okay to email you at the address you left. All the best, Kaiser

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