Alvin Y.H. Cheung. Melancholy in Hong Kong. World Policy Institute

HONG KONG—On July 13, 1989, a month after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Hong Kong’s public-service broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) aired a documentary about the sense of disenchantment pervading the city. Producers of “The Melancholy Hong Konger” interviewed two up-and-coming local politicians and several middle-class Hong Kong families about their hopes for the resumption of Chinese sovereignty in 1997, and their disillusion in the wake of Beijing’s crackdown on the pro-democracy student movement. It ended with a simple yet damning indictment: “China is not credible; Britain is not reliable.”

Twenty-five years later, in the midst of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong is again at a crossroads. In a curious twist of fate, the people RTHK interviewed in 1989—democratic politician Martin Lee and pro-establishment figure C.Y. Leung, along with Hong Kong’s increasingly restive middle class—provided a frighteningly perceptive glimpse into the factors contributing to the unrest, and into the city’s future, then and now.

To access the full article, please follow this linkThis article was originally published in the World Policy Journal’s Winter 2014/2015 Issue, “Europe Under Fire.”

Alvin Y. H. Cheung is a Visiting Scholar at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute.