Weekend edition—The power of protests, the future of perk, our newest bicycle boom

Good morning, Quartz readers.

In the United States, the coronavirus shutdown has not stopped black people from dying unjustly. On May 25, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, begging for his life with a police officer’s knee on his neck. On March 13, EMT Breonna Taylor was shot to death by police officers who burst into the wrong apartment. In February, jogger Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two vigilantes.

This week, anti-racist demonstrators around the US took to the streets, and Minneapolis arrested one of the men responsible for Floyd’s death.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, police brutality is prevalent as Beijing moves to end the island’s relative autonomy from communist rule. The relatively liberal territory is a pivot point in the global economy, where capital flows between the US, Europe, and mainland China. The importance of this relationship is a prominent reason China hasn’t moved more quickly to seize full control of Hong Kong.

The parallels between America’s struggle with white supremacy and Hong Kong’s fight for political rights are found in the demand for human dignity and for holding the powerful accountable. In fact, the parallels between China’s government and that of the US may disturb those who haven’t been paying attention.

Now, China is betting the world’s pandemic distraction will allow it to effectively annex Hong Kong—and is hoping that US president Donald Trump will not risk further destabilizing trade by ending the unique treatment of Hong Kong under American law that makes it a major port of trade and financial center.

Predictably, Trump has shown more concern for profits than people. In a press conference on Friday that many anticipated would address America’s racial divide, he instead promised vague retaliation against China for its action in Hong Kong—but nothing that is likely to deter Beijing by truly slowing trade.

In the same week, Trump invoked the specter of the Jim Crow south in tweets about Minneapolis, declaring that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” That would be bad enough in his own country, but is also a signal to Chinese president Xi Jinping and autocrats around the world that the American president condones their brutal tactics.

The US often ignores social strife to seek economic growth, whether that’s inequality in black communities or repression abroad. But true globalization is based on the idea that humans should not be denied access to each other by artificial borders. It’s not an excuse for leaders to look away from oppression abroad just to keep trade flowing, or a handy distraction from structural discrimination against its own citizens. —Tim Fernholz, senior reporter


US teens on TikTok are making “I love China” videos. Hundreds of videos “praising” China and Xi Jinping have been posted by users mainly in the US and Europe, set to the tune of the Chinese national anthem. For some users, it’s a joke. Others believe the videos, often hashtagged #ilovechina, can help them gain views and followers since TikTok parent ByteDance is Chinese-owned. Jane Li talks to the TikTok users who are singing China’s praises (✦). —Isabella Steger, deputy Asia editor

Free kombucha isn’t going to cut it anymore. I’ve worked for companies where the in-person perks were great, but the work wasn’t—and one certainly helps you overlook the other, at least for a while. It’s hard to imagine what the future of office perks will be for tech firms who rely heavily on their decked-out workspaces and catered meals to attract and retain talent. Michelle Cheng gives us a preview. —Susan Howson, news editor

There’s more than one way to stage a recovery. At first glance, US and German unemployment rates appear to be on different planets. But as John Detrixhe explains, the two countries are actually in similar straits. They’re just taking different approaches to the crisis: The US is focused on unemployment benefits, and Germany on government-subsidized wages. Which method is best suited to this downturn? Only time will tell. —Kira Bindrim, executive editor 

Virtual escape rooms offer an unlikely form of pandemic bonding. While each sitting in their own inescapable room, the members of the Quartz at Work team zoomed into a fairy tale world to solve puzzles and discover an all-important magic spell. Somehow, Lila MacLellan reports (✦), the team-building exercise worked, didn’t feel like a corny chore, and allowed them to learn about each other’s problem-solving strategies. —Nicolás Rivero, tech reporter

Get on your bike and ride. When my notoriously bicycle-averse mom requested an adult three-wheeler for her birthday this May, I suspected she might be part of a trend. Then I read this extremely satisfying explainer on the coronavirus bicycle boom by Michael Coren and Dan Kopf (✦). Learning about the historical context behind previous bicycle trends helped me understand how the pandemic could change our transportation habits—and reform city streets for the better. —Sarah Todd, senior reporter, Quartz at Work

Fun fact

Jai alai was nearly weaponized. During World War II, Ernest Hemingway hatched a scheme to recruit jai alai players to hurl grenades at German U-boats from the deck of his fishing boat, the Pilar. US military officials passed on his plan, but that doesn’t mean you should pass on learning about the fastest sport that much of the world forgot.

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FOR MEMBERS: Seduction, the French way

Gaining acceptance in France is critical to Netflix’s goal of securing audiences outside the US. Its recent efforts in the country include opening an office in Paris, announcing 20 new productions, supporting local training and employment programs, and even planning a return to Cannes, despite a long-running conflict with the film festival. If you missed our field guide on what’s next for Netflix, you’ll want to get caught up before a weekend of la télévision.


On Larry Kramer and the legacy of AIDS activism. In the wake of his death, one of the most telling testaments to the importance of AIDS activist Larry Kramer was his relationship with American physician Antony Fauci. In a New York Times piece, Fauci warmly remembers a friend and nemesis who was fundamental in pushing the government to acknowledge and address the AIDS crisis. It is that work that gave us the tools, today, to demand action on this new crisis. —Annalisa Merelli, geopolitics reporter

Protecting their own when no one else will. The Navajo nation has the highest Covid-19 infection and death rates of any group in the US, as the federal government fails to provide them with adequate information and resources. Young adults in the community have taken it upon themselves to launch information campaigns to try to protect their elders, who carry the most language and cultural knowledge, Mona Gable reports for STAT. —Katherine Ellen Foley, health and science reporter

Community organizers pick up the Slack. With in-person interactions all but impossible, mutual aid groups have turned to workplace productivity tools like Slack and Airtable to organize volunteers, identify neighbors in need, and distribute aid. But as Kaitlyn Tiffany writes in The Atlantic, community organizers must also grapple with issues of data privacy and how to pay for tech platforms designed for a very different customer. —Liz Webber, senior news curator

“There’s some sort of evil out there.” The Point captures a peculiar dimension of living in New York City now: a (David) Lynchian quality in how it feels to simply go outside in the fading epicenter of an ongoing pandemic. A resplendent Central Park in spring, sitting amid deadly air. What is and what appears. And in an acute reading of my favorite Lynch film, Mulholland Drive, “men in curtained rooms telephone each other, agreeing to ‘shut… everything… down.’” —Max Lockie, deputy news editor

Things have changed? Of course they have. But this delightful and restrained item by Larry Buchanan for The New York Times puts the whole lot in one place. With hand-drawn arrows and low-fidelity illustrations, it runs through the litany of everyday changes life has seen during the pandemic, from more delivery to less crime, more speeding to less sex. At its core, it’s a list. Be sure to add it to yours. —David Yanofsky, things editor

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, bicycle bells, and Lynchian parallels to hi@qz.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was brought to you by Tim Fernholz and Susan Howson.