The first chapter of Antony Dapiran’s book, “City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong,” is a study of tear gas — its effects, both physical and psychological, and its uses throughout history. It sets the tone for what is to follow, a meticulous account of the street protests that roiled Hong Kong for the latter half of 2019.

In smooth, heady prose that blends legal scholarship with the romanticism of a battle for independence, Dapiran shows what he calls “a fight for the very soul of Hong Kong,” from the spark of a contested extradition bill — provoked by a murder committed by a Hong Kong man in Taiwan — to the escalation of nearly 7,000 arrests and a shutdown of the airport and legislature. He shows a city unhinged, on the verge of breakdown.

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