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In Hong Kong, the fear of infecting agents has always resonated with a fear of other people, quarantine has mirrored exclusion, whilst epidemiological, racial and cultural contamination have shared the same language. When the city became the epicenter of the most significant airborne epidemic in recent years — the SARS crisis of — the unparalleled shutdown of the city and the atomisation of society in quarantined segments led to an unexpected shift in the political awareness of the Hong Kong citizenry. Just after the end of the epidemic, record numbers of people turned out to protest against a new internal security law imposed by Beijing, causing its shelving and, more importantly, the emergence of an active political community.

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After that moment, the image of a de-politicised and soullessly pragmatic commercial hub could not anymore tell the whole story about Hong Kong. Less gloriously however, the main measure taken to alleviate the economic meltdown caused by SARS, the option for Mainland citizens to visit the territory for the first time on individual visas caused another major shift in the identity of the city, and its relationship to Mainland China.

Medicalised vocabularies and imageries reminiscent of epidemics have been used in regard to the growing number of Mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, seen as pathogens corrupting an otherwise healthy social body and as milk formula sucking locusts.

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  8. Again, an epidemic becomes the backdrop of paranoia and hate, but the fear of the Chinese, of their vast numbers and uncivilized habits, is now harboured by fellow Chinese rather than by the self-content Europeans of the last plague visitation a century ago. This essentialising xenophobia has come to be a defining factor in the relationship between the two sides of the Shenzhen River, and paradoxically has complicated the pro-democracy and anti-Beijing discourse and activism, rejuvenated in the wake of the SARS crisis.

    This highly readable short novel is fascinating not just as a historical account, but in its description of how people reacted to a deadly disease that they understood to be contagious, but yet had no cure for.

    A Journal of the Plague Year (FULL Audiobook) - part 2

    Defoe derides quack doctors who killed more than they saved, and then themselves succumbed to plague. He tells of people turning to religion; of people driven mad by the death around them and raving in the streets; of people fleeing to the country, and of others barricading themselves in their homes. The ways people reacted in could be the very same ways people might have reacted today to a mysterious, deadly, and highly contagious outbreak. This ebook is only thought to be free of copyright restrictions in the United States.