Hong Kong has been shaken by unprecedented political and social tensions over the last few years, as Beijing has exerted its authority over the semi-autonomous territory in response to growing opposition to its rule, especially from young people. Ben Bland’s new book – Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow – investigates the roots of these tensions through the lens of generational change. Feeling little connection to either mainland China or the British legacy, millennial Hong Kongers – who Ben has dubbed Generation HK – are forging a Hong Kong identity of their own. As much as they want to break free from the conservative expectations of their parents, and react against an economic structure that has left many unable to buy even a tiny flat, they are struggling to come to terms with what it means to live in the shadow of a powerful, rising China. Their predicament shines a light on the fundamental contradictions at the heart of Hong Kong’s unique system, which requires allegiance to the world’s biggest authoritarian state but enshrines civic freedoms, a high degree of autonomy and the promise of competitive elections. China’s management of the situation in Hong Kong is closely watched in Taiwan and is an important test case for how Beijing projects its soft power beyond the mainland.
About the Speaker
Ben Bland is the South China correspondent for the Financial Times, based in Hong Kong, and the author of Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow, which is published by Penguin. He covers politics, economics and business across southern mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as writing about aviation, manufacturing, logistics and China’s relationship with Southeast Asia.
Bland was previously the FT correspondent in Indonesia and Vietnam and has reported all across Asia over the last decade, covering the South China Sea disputes, presidential elections in Indonesia and Taiwan, the opening of Myanmar and many other issues. He has interviewed leading politicians including Indonesian President Joko Widodo and many prominent tycoons and chief executives.
Before moving to Asia in 2008, he was business reporter for The Daily Telegraph and Dow Jones Newswires in London. After studying History at the University of Cambridge, Bland completed a Masters in Southeast Asian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He was selected as a Kiplinger fellow in public interest journalism at Ohio State University in 2014.
He regularly speaks about Hong Kong, China and Southeast Asia for a range of broadcasters including the BBC, Sky News, Monocle radio and RTHK. He also moderates at business conferences across the region, runs journalism training workshops and is a former vice president of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club.