HONG KONG (AP) — Nearly 15 years ago, Grace Ma decided to name her bar Club 71, in commemoration of a July 1, 2003 rally where hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers protested a proposed national security law for the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
“I took the name Club 71, because somehow it is more hopeful, with half a million Hong Kong people having a demonstration, a rally, to stand for themselves, not to ignore what’s going on in Hong Kong,” said Ma.
For years, the storied bar has served as a watering hole for the city’s pro-democracy activists and intellectuals, who could freely engage in discussions over a round of beer or two.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and, in a blow to the city’s Western-style freedoms, the central government in Beijing in June imposed sweeping national security legislation targeting political expression in response to massive anti-government protests last year. For Ma, the troubles meant it was time to shutter the business for good.