Li Yi’s Unfinished Memoir: A Hongkonger’s Journey Through Turmoil and the Struggle for Freedom

Photo of Li Yi displayed at a remembrance ceremony after his death.

Li Yi, a famous Hong Kong writer and media personality, passed away in October 2022, at the age of 86. (Image: Chunyin via Radio Free Asia)

Li Yi, a famous Hong Kong writer and media personality, passed away in October last year (2022) at the age of 86. Recently, his two daughters announced on Facebook that their father’s posthumous work Memoirs of a Loser will be published on May 10.

Li Yi’s two daughters, Xiaolei and Xiaobei, shared in a Facebook post that their father began writing Memoirs of a Loser on April 21, 2021, chronicling his experiences from overcoming obstacles during the Cultural Revolution to visit his wife and daughter in Shenzhen, to his involvement in the momentous anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong. The memoir comprises 197 articles and 410,000 words in total. Li Yi’s motivation to write these memoirs stemmed from Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “Success is not the end, failure is not the end, only courage is eternal.”

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Many readers expressed their disappointment that Li Yi did not have the chance to finish his memoirs, and they wondered what he would have written in the remaining chapters. His two daughters revealed that during a video conversation on July 31, 2022, about two months before their father’s death, daughter Xiaolei inquired about what else he planned to write. Li Yi responded by discussing the repercussions of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which was implemented on July 1, 2020, and its impact on countless Hong Kong residents.

Current affairs commentator and columnist Li Yi in Hong Kong.
Li Yi considered it an intellectual’s responsibility to care about Hong Kong’s democracy movement. (Image: Li Yi via Facebook)

Li Yi lamented that many of his friends were in prison and might be sentenced to life imprisonment, including Jimmy Lai of the newspaper Apple Daily. “I find it difficult to write,” he said. “When you understand the truth, you become quite pessimistic, especially about the situation in Hong Kong.”

Li Yi promoted freedom for Hongkongers

The two daughters shared that their father was a true Hong Kong native who had lived in the city for 70 years. He dedicated his life to promoting freedom for the people of Hong Kong and China and giving a voice to those who couldn’t speak up. Although he was forced to leave Hong Kong, his heart remained close to his homeland.

Watching Hong Kong lose the freedom it had enjoyed for 180 years, their father was deeply distressed. The implementation of the National Security Law was the reason he chose exile. If he were still alive, he would undoubtedly write about Hong Kong’s decline.

His wish was to dedicate the memoirs to the current generation, future generations, and their descendants. While their father may have been pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future, his life embodied a belief in living with both pessimism and positivity.

Numerous netizens commented: “Thank you, Mr. Li Yi,” and “We miss Mr. Li Yi.”

One comment read: “Mr. Li Yi’s words will live forever in the world, becoming a warning and valuable advice for future generations.”

Another comment stated: “Mr. Li Yi is a very respectable person. He spent his life considering the people and the country, had a rich education, and was sincere in his dealings with others.”

Illustration of Li Yi on the cover of a book.
Li Yi’s posthumous work ‘Memoirs of a Loser’ will be published on May 10. (Image: Li Yi via Facebook)

At present, Hong Kong journalists who still have a conscience are, to a considerable extent, continuing Mr. Li’s work. In today’s politically dark and morally corrupt era, it may take great effort, sacrifice, and a long period of setbacks to achieve Mr. Li’s aspirations.

Born in Guangzhou in 1936 as Li Bingyao, Li Yi relocated to Hong Kong in 1948 amidst wartime and graduated from the left-wing Xiangdao Middle School in 1954. In his early years, he was a pro-communist, patriotic leftist; however, in 1981, he distanced himself from the leftist camp and embraced anti-communism. In an article, he candidly stated that Hong Kong leftists’ early behavior was driven by “loyalty and trust in the motherland,” but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was far from simple.

After the National Security Law’s implementation in July 2020, Li Yi moved to Taiwan, believing that “leaving is to complete the last chapter of life.” He considered it an intellectual’s responsibility to care about the democracy movement. Li Yi attended the Taipei premiere of Revolution of Our Times in Taiwan, where he stated: “If one can win the hearts and minds of the people, they can win the world; the CCP will never win Hong Kong.”

Translated by: Chua BC

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