Conversation with Marco Lupis, author of the freshly printed book “Hong Kong – Tale of a suspended city” (Il Mulino)
“Today Hong Kong is no longer needed. It is of no use to the People’s Republic of China, it is of no use to Westerners ”. And this, after an accurate anamnesis, the surgical, melancholy judgment of Marco Lupis. In his fresh off the press Hong Kong – Tale of a suspended city, published by il Mulino, the Calabrian journalist pours out all his love for the fragrant Port. He is a city that he has known as an envoy for a quarter of a century. Where he has lived for a long time. Where it often returns. Because there, in an archipelago city-state of hundreds of islands, as a nomadic traveler he finally found his “island”. Destiny of those who would always like to be elsewhere, but in the end – as another great restless traveler like Tiziano Terzani said – risks getting involved definitively, seriously falling in love with a place that becomes homeland. For Lupis , this homeland is Hong Kong.
Hinge between the Far East and the West.
But the zip between the two worlds is jammed.
Hong Kong’s fortune seems to have started along an inclined plane in the considerations of the world economic and political chessboard. From the third financial center after London and New York, the Manhattan of Asia, made up of very high skyscrapers, where a garage costs more than Rolls-Royce and Ferrari to park, where verticality smooths out towards unexpected green parks and the sea – lots of sea -, where the ladies in Chanel and international brokers live daily with poor and filthy people who push shaky carts dressed as in Mao’s time. Heirs of chi da Maohe ran away. And maybe he made his money starting from a Hong Kong dream, which at certain times allowed even a shoe shine to leap to the heights of millionaire entrepreneurship; but where the social elevator actually no longer exists.
The Chinese return which regained its territory in 1997 after the British colonial season; the riots of recent years; the pandemics which – first Sars, then Covid – have created an army of poor among seven and a half million inhabitants.
Poor surrounded by money. There, in Hog ​​Kong, where you can get a room in a hotel so luxurious that many of those in the Western and Arab capitals fall the stars. And where even the most sordid brothels can be approached. The same city where in the shops you can buy meat of the most dangerous and indecipherable for our palates; where an entire neighborhood dedicated to the funeral home displays the merchandise of coffins on the public street, destined for the dead who will be buried standing, in cemeteries built vertically due to the chronic lack of space. Where there was opium, and still is, then the dollars fell. Where international spies crossed, the affairs of the mafia; of the Chinese who in the name of communism could not do unspeakable business with Westerners a few kilometers away, but here, yes.
While blatant they were and are superstition and superstition. You would move an entire village because according to the rules of feng shui it is built in a place not blessed by the gods
. In Hong Kong it is successful. CEO of a multinational you would ask the advice of an expert geomancer before building a skyscraper
. It still happens. Like hanging octagonal mirrors outside houses to ward off evil spirits or even paying a million dollars to put number 8 on the car’s license plate. Lupis reminds us that an anonymous businessman did it, ” only because for the Cantonese the number eight is the symbol of luck and money “.
This too is China. This is also Hong Kong. A world that Lupisdescribes as a chronicler and passionate lover. With timely historical inserts. Because – to steal a definition of youth from Calvino – journalism and many things, “also a particular sharpness of the gaze that grasps and registers an enormous number of details and nuances; an insatiability of the eyes that drink the spectacle of the world “.
And this is being a journalist for Lupis . Also in capturing and reminding ourselves of the liquid essence of Hong Kong. For the geography – 263 islands make up it – for the character of Hong Kong.
“Be water my friend! – Be water my friend! ”, Said Bruce Lee .
Note Lupis: “The inhabitants of Hong Kong have always had the same adaptability to the epochal events that hit it – from devastating typhoons, to political and economic changes, to the most terrible epidemics – the same adaptability that water in a cup has , or in any other container of which it takes the form “. The movement of young people in revolt in 2019 adopted this historical slogan, “because, like water, the movement adapted almost instantly to changing situations, to attempts at police repression, to the recurrent arrests of its leaders”. Kids in love with democracy or, at least, its flavor. And which together, analyzes Lupis , accuse a sense of “abandonment on the part of China – which in any case remains the motherland for all”.
In this volume that reports like thousands of notes from an endless Moleskine notebook annotated for a quarter of a century, there is no lack of reading that is almost like a cultured tour guide, to really meet the soul of the city. To pack when you return to travel together with a Lonely Planet practice, perhaps to read on a seat of a Cathay Pacific Boeing, to deepen the reasons for London toponymy, all made up of Central, Street, Square. Clubs where diplomats, businessmen and journalists meet; of double-decker trams and ferries to reach the most remote islands – from where the journey begins, liquid, contrary to the book compared to the guides who point to the center. Ferries and trams which run Lupistells exactly. Such that there is only a lack of bus timetables and prices and menus of the rest of the restaurants available elsewhere. Lupis looks carefully at the details. By capturing the details of a neighborhood – the walled city, for example, now razed to the ground – where endless theories of who knows how to make dentures on display were sold along with drugs and sex for little money. With courageous disregard for hygiene. Or where the gaze of the Westerner captures the late afternoon of gathering of silent elderly people who, without making an appointment, find themselves in front of the window of a modern sex shop. Dumb old men, but with the same naturalness of their Italian peers who give themselves a vociferous meeting in front of road construction sites.
Today, however, Hong Kong is no longer needed.
It is now almost a hindrance to the exchange of business between Western capitalism and the Communist one of Beijing. And what the heck, how much annoyance on the one hand, for what Xi Jinping ‘s China hates most – individual rights, freedom of the press, guaranteed courts. Hatred (and repression) to which an ill-concealed Western distraction for young people who since 2014 has repeatedly demonstrated for the protection of democratic guarantees cannibalized by the regime does not respond firmly.
In spite of the agreements.
Those that the government of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth had snatched from the regime. After the colonial lease expired, Hong Kong returned to China on July 1, 1997. For fifty years, however, the judicial and democratic guarantees were to remain unchanged. We have seen how much, thirty years in advance, the word has not been respected. The principle “one country two systems”, and shipwrecked. Last but not least, in the gag law passed off as national security law. Or the most recent electoral law that will wipe out the democratic opposition, and the imposition of a “patriotic” oath on China. That is to the Communist Party.
Also for this book by Lupisit is necessary. Currently needed. Because perhaps the end of Hong Kong’s long history is yet to be written. Because, above all, even to the most cynical of international businessmen and politicians as well as to the not too distracted observer, that bridge city, its history, its relations with Beijing, serve to understand what China we are dealing with.
If only for convenience. Moreover, it does not recite the saying “if you dine with the devil it is better to take a long spoon with you
“. A little knowledge, if not cunning, is needed. In fact, it is not certain that the West is always aware, sitting at the table with Beijing, that it is itself on the menu.
“Today Hong Kong is no longer needed. It is of no use to the People’s Republic of China, it is of no use to Westerners ”.
Investments have shifted. Beijing aims to make the archipelago metropolis any Chinese city. Nor is it the most important. Too annoying for its democratic claim. As China – apparently – becomes less and less communist and more and more oriented towards money and wealth, Hong Kong is suspended. CCP bureaucrats prefer other exponentially growing Chinese metropolises, first of all Shanghai, and even neighboring Shenzhen. Analyze Lupis: in order not to invest in the fragrant port, China has invested heavily in the former fishing village just behind the border, the Shenzhen that today rivals, in terms of skyscrapers, industry and technology, with the city on Victoria Bay. And Westerners should look to those new metropolises. The corporations working in Hong Kong, moreover, are now aiming to hire staff from mainland China, if only because they speak better the Mandarin used by the regime’s boyars.
Even those who were not that distracted gweilo, a pale devil, as they called in the Cantonese of the former colony a Westerner with contemptuous consideration of Westerners, or an interest in the tourist in search of the exotic and with a swollen wallet to squeeze. Even for a gweilo, knowing Hong Kong means knowing the Beijing method. Method that emerges from the volume of Lupis .
Method that must be taken into account before sitting down at the table and not end up on the inviting menu.
It is a Beijing method that Lupisa StartMagazine sums up as the Borg method, the inhabitants of the Star Trek science fiction universe. The method of assimilation towards other worlds, to the point of forcing them to obey the needs of the collectivity. Rectius: of the regime. Method that Beijing is practicing with breadth on the recalcitrant children of the Hong Kong protests. In the name of the higher interest: money. Same method for the rest of the world
Assimilation not at all hidden. Plasticly represented by the bridge that allows you to cross the canal and connect Hong Kong and Macau.
Fifty-five kilometers inaugurated in 2018.
“In the project wanted by life president Xi Jinping, there is a clear desire to create a gigantic economic region around the great bay of the Pearl River, capable of equaling and surpassing the agglomerations of New York, San Francisco and Tokyo ”. Lupis recalls : “Put together, the GDPs of Hong Kong, with its power as a financial center, of Macao, the world capital of gambling, of Zhuhai, of Shenzhen, with its high technology and its factories, and of Guangzhou, the manufacturing capital of the world, are worth the staggering figure of 1.5 trillion US dollars ”.
With the deterioration of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, that bridge is now seen as the image of the longa manus stretched out over the former colony from Beijing: “More than a bridge, a chain 55 kilometers long”.
A deadly embrace. A sign of the cannibalization set up by the communist regime. In between, young people torn between being Chinese and their Western feeling who have tasted the flavor of democracy.
“Today Hong Kong is no longer needed”.
As I confide to Lupis a young Chinese career and lucid with alcoholic intoxication at aperitif time in the prestigious Captain’s Bar: Hong Kong was once the navel of Asia. Today it is China’s asshole.

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