Michael Leung / ON LAND 12: Pre-existing Conditions 「在地」十二:既有狀況

Michael Leung / ON LAND 12: Pre-existing Conditions 「在地」十二:既有狀況

Michael Leung 梁志剛

Michael Leung 梁志剛

發表於: 24 Jul 2020

In these COVID-19 days, health and medical professionals often talk about “underlying conditions” as a key factor that undermines those with chronic diseases in fighting the virus. Michael Leung seems to have those conditions when his hay fever was apparently exacerbated by exposure to tear gas. Rather than a sheer physiological condition, New York-based artist Rene Gabri states, as Leung quotes, what are considered pre-existing conditions are “those imposed on people by capitalism and the state, making some more vulnerable than others (during the pandemic).” Must immunity, then, be just a personal matter? What are the possibilities of being immune a collective act?「本有」狀況?「既有」狀態?還是「固有」狀態?梁志剛在英回顧法國行程的經驗,體悟藝術家 Rene Gabri 的申述:既有狀態其實是資本主義和國家政府加諸我們身上的,其結果是有些人總比另一些人「脆弱」,例如在疫情高漲的時候。如是,「既有」的,因政策管治的上綱下達,便成了「固有」的境況。往下想,「免疫」或「免疫系統」的出現,是否可以超越「個人」層面而成為「協作」的、社區群體的?(introduction by Linda C.H. Lai)


Pre-existing Conditions | Michael Leung

5th June 2020, UK


I just entered, probably the most expensive “mouse-hole” in the world, the Channel Tunnel.[1] The darkness outside prompts me to write, on my phone. [1]

Wormholes Between Territorial Struggles, 2nd August 2019. Illustration by Michael Leung

Three months ago I wrote about wormholes and precarity, and imagined myself visiting nutritious and emancipatory places that were intersections of ecology and activism — Wang Chau Village, Little Miyashita Garden, the ZAD (Zone à Défendre in French, Zone to Defend in English) at Notre-Dame-des-Landes and Hambach Forest near Cologne (now impossible to visit). [2]

The ZAD is an ongoing 1,650-hectare land occupation where its inhabitants fought for 50 years against a government-proposed new airport and its world (later cancelled in January 2018). Today I left the ZAD after two amazing but ailing weeks. According to a French medicinal herb book, I had arrived in the countryside during the peak hay fever month (15th May to 15 June)—unacquainted pollen welcomed me, as well as the collective’s cat who likes to bring mice heads home. The pollen and hay at the ZAD entered my body and produced a sticky liquid in my eyes sealing them shut in my sleep; filled the cavities of my nose and turned them into dripping taps at night; and tightened my windpipe like that night in Mong Kok when we were only going for dessert, and not a “tear gas buffet.”

Different types of tear gas used by the Hong Kong Police Force, 19th December 2019. Image from Telegram.

At the ZAD my asthma from around 20 years ago quickly returned, worse than the account shared in Restless.[3] It wasn’t this bad when I visited two years ago, in July. [4] Looking for a reason, and accompanied by my colour blindness (8% of males have this), I started to wonder if I was a honeybee in my former life… J., who is part of the collective, thinks that my breathing problems may be exacerbated by the tear gas that everybody has been exposed to in Hong Kong—the expired British tear gas, the globally-exported American tear gas and the combusting Chinese tear gas whose ingredients are still unknown (the most potent of the three). [5]

Although masked, I feel vulnerable travelling on public transport during a pandemic, to a country less organised and with more daily coronavirus cases and deaths than the one I’m leaving from. Unlike the beginning of my trip, I now travel with what medical staff might call ‘pre-existing conditions.’

The Society of the Friends of the Virus, Volume 1, cover. 20th March 2020.


During the pandemic I received a few hand typed PDFs in my inbox from a group called The Society of the Friends of the Virus. These PDFs later made an appearance on the website Testing Assembling with people like Jean-Luc Nancy, Nazan Ustundag and Silvia Federici. [6] I remember the times I watched those videos alone during confinement in Grenoble, and joined the online gatherings. Sometimes I was lying on a yoga mat, cooking dinner or sitting at a long wooden table at the ZAD. In one of the assemblies, I recall New York-based artist Rene Gabri sharing his political interpretation of ‘pre-existing conditions,’ those imposed on people by capitalism and the state—making some more vulnerable than others (during the pandemic). 

The Assemblings and participants were often-times US-centric but those conditions that people openly shared felt similar to those experienced in Hong Kong and the UK — neoliberal developments in Ma Shi Po Village in Fanling by Henderson Property Development Company Limited and the austerity measures that continue to cripple the National Healthcare Service, respectively.

Capitalism is a Pyramid Scheme, poster by Packard Jennings with CrimethInc, 2011.


In the previous gatherings I remember thinking, how does one become immune to such pre-existing conditions? To be “immune” does one have to be individualistic, competitive, selfish and/or ignorant, whilst self-confining in their second home—relentlessly climbing the capitalist pyramid? Or does one have to simply be lucky, and born into privilege without having any financial worries throughout their life? I thought back to the questions still scrolling on my website since the beginning of the pandemic:

How are we sharing our resources today such as isolated forms of transport, an underused room and the money in our bank accounts? How do we continue to practice mutual aid in and from places of confinement? [7] What is to be (un)done?

As I leave the 50.45-kilometre mouse-hole I feel excited about the next part of my trip, in a place that I have lived in for most of my life, and connecting with new comrades that I met online during those months of confinement, social distancing and digital organising. We Connect.

‘同行 We Connect,’ Chief Executive Carrie Lam election manifesto title, 11th October 2017. Photo from: https://hongkongfp.com/2017/10/11/carrie-lam-promised-connect-yet-engagement-ngos-deteriorating-watch 



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_Tunnel

[2] https://communitiesinmovement.net/publications.php?publication=35

[3] http://studioleung.com/eBooks/%E8%BA%81%E5%8B%95%20Restless-%E6%A2%81%E5%BF%97%E5%89%9B%20Michael%20Leung-Stay%20Safe.pdf

[4] www.tinyurl.com/WorkingfortheCommons

[5] https://hongkongfp.com/2020/01/18/democrat-asks-court-force-hong-kong-police-reveal-tear-gas-recipe

[6] http://16beavergroup.org/assembling

[7] Mutual aid and also mutual destruction (Phoenixism) https://twitter.com/wilfredchan/status/1265854471097257985?s=21



‘CCP [Chinese Communist Party] GIVING COMMUNISM A BAD NAME’ graffiti, 19th September 2019.


P.S. At the ZAD I recall J. at the dinner table referring to T. as a true communist, after he cooked dinner for everyone, covered all the dishes, and left before dinner to go and work on the collective garden before joining a party on the northeast of the ZAD. T. was also generous to share his asthma inhaler with me, a “COVID-No No.” Following the imposed National Anthem Law and the upcoming Nation Security Law in Hong Kong, I’m reminded of the graffiti that I saw over half a year ago, ‘CCP [Chinese Communist Party] GIVING COMMUNISM A BAD NAME.’

Since the beginning of February 2020, I’ve been visiting different collectives in France and the Basque Country. Here are some field notes, photos, essays, dreams, fiction and indeterminacies—some written on my journey and some during confinement.: https://insurrectionaryam.tumblr.com/2020


Further reading

Teargas and pepper spray will accelerate spread of Covid-19, doctors warn


Teargas, asthma and Sarah Grossman (rest in power)




Read other posts in Michael Leung’s ON LAND field notes series



Floating Projects Collective 2023