It was never just about the neon, that cubist, consumerist razzle-dazzle cantilevered over Hong Kong’s streets announcing pawnbrokers and mooncake bakers, saunas and shark’s fin soup shops.

It was never just about the signs, shining on teahouses offering the finest Iron Goddess of Mercy brew and on hotels paid for by the hour, or on Chinese medicine emporiums bursting with wooden drawers of sea horses and on mahjong parlors clickety-clacking with manicured nails hitting hard tiles.

Because while the government’s crackdown on the neon signs stems from safety and environmental concerns, the campaign evokes the fading of Hong Kong itself: the mournful allegory for an electric city’s decline, the literal extinguishing of its brash flash.