Thursday, July 22, 2021

Anthem ’21: Days Before the Dawn (short doc)

At a time when terms like “locally-grown” sound desirable to consumers and marketers alike, how could a so-called “localist” movement be considering dangerous to the powers that be? Sadly, Hong Kongers are not supposed to think local. Increasingly, they are instructed not to think at all, but just obey. Any sense of Hong Kong identity is discouraged, in favor of strict loyalty to the Mainland regime. Yet, millions of Hong Kongers have taken to the streets to express their dissent. Trevor Klein chronicles the early pre-Extradition Bill protest movement in the short documentary, Days Before the Dawn (conceived as the first chapter of longer project), which screens tomorrow as part of the 2021 Anthem Film Festival.

Frankly, it is shameful the Western media is exploding with outrage over the events rocking Hong Kong. Seven and a half million people are in the process of losing their freedom and their way of life, but it didn’t just suddenly happen. The CCP had been trying to quietly undermine HK’s special status for years. Klein and his on-camera experts explain how democrats like Benny Tai adopted non-violent techniques to protest early versions of the CCP’s “National Security” Law and to agitate for the direct election of the Chief Executive.

also reminds us Joshua Wong founded Scholarism (which would become the dominant force directing the Umbrella protests) to combat plans to introduce CCP propaganda into school curriculums (at a time when we too are debating increasingly politicized indoctrination in our schools, particularly with respects to CRT). The background and context Klein and company give the so-called “Fishball Revolution” is particularly valuable, because the Western media was so remiss in covering it at the time.

Several future activists admit on-camera they did not fully recognize the significance at the time when C.Y Lee’s puppet government cracked down on traditional street hawkers, but the vendors’ push back helped forge the Localist Movement. Rather than an isolated incident,
Dawn positions the incident as an early attempt to undermine the distinctive culture and character of Hong Kong.

In addition to Tai (one of the 55 arrested during the notorious 1/6/2021 round-up), Klein interviewed democratic politician Avery Ng (who was sentenced to a fourteen-month prison term in May), Prof. James Rice of Lingnan University, old school democratic activist Emily Lau, Localist leader Baggio Leung (now in exile in the U.S.), Edward Leung (sentenced to six years), and the final HK Governor Chris Patten, whose warnings have tragically come to pass.

There is a lot of valuable testimony in
Days Before the Dawn. Sadly, its keenest insight comes from those who argue non-violent resistance can only really work in a democracy that has a basic regard for human dignity. Whereas the British empire had lost its stomach for colonialism by the time Gandhi started agitating for independence, the CCP still has no qualms about killing thousands of people, as they did in Tiananmen Square. That is a sobering lesson—and Klein’s film might be the first to make it so starkly. Recommended for the history it documents and the concerted oppression it exposes, Days Before the Dawn is very highly recommended when it screens tomorrow (7/23) at the Anthem Film Festival, as part of the “Growing Threat of Socialism” program.