The act naam-chaau (mutual destruction) can be taken as a move, a process, or a terminal strike registered at specific junctures in the intensifying situation of Hong Kong, triggered initially by the government's attempt to amend a law to allow it to extradite alleged individuals in the territory to China despite massive opposition by people across social sectors. In the course of the leaderless popular movement against government since June 2019, through media publicity, flash protests and overseas lobbying, the work of naam-chaau has given rise to higher level damages, restrictions and concerns beyond police frontlines. The popular English phrase “If we burn, you burn with us!” is often adopted to annotate tactical actions which undermine the legitimacy of the state apparatus in question. During the “Be Water” resistance movement, physical and non-physical confrontations are mediated on multiplying levels or “front lines” of the resistance. Noting the continual evolvement of such tactics and with a focus on the widening significance of violence — not least that of the police- and system-violence — I reflect on the situated moves of naam-chaau as a terminal reciprocity. With a perspective on mutual destruction as a real possibility when the new Hong Kong normalcy comes to stay, we could look at this gaming tactic on three levels, culminating in what has been characterized as “the endgame.”
Bibliographical noteThis paper grows out of a workshop presentation on Keywords on Hong Kong I made at the Division of Humanities at National Technological University in Singapore on 26 October 2019 and a work-in-progress seminar I presented at my own Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University on 4 November 2019. My ongoing exchanges on this and related topics with Ashish Rajadhyaksha during the past few months have been very helpful. I thank Ashish and everybody concerned who gave me feedback on various occasions.
- body politic
- postcolonial Hong Kongers
- burning together