I took this photo 20 years ago next Monday, standing in Lok Ma Chau, the scenic border town with mainland China.
There’s not much going on here.
Back then, no one knew what would happen in China. Tiananmen had just happened a year before and Deng Xiaoping had yet to take his southern “to get rich is glorious” tour.
Before China opened to the west, foreign tourists flocked to Lok Ma Chau to get a glimpse of the mainland. Even in 1990, a full decade after the US normalized relations with the mainland, there was still a forbidden allure to the place, even for those of us who’d already traveled there.
Several years after I left Hong Kong (and before I returned for a second stint), I worked in an academic library in Washington, DC. A China watchers group met there once a month at lunchtime. We discussed China’s political and economic developments. Was it prudent to invest in China four short years after Tiananmen? What would happen after Deng Xiaoping dies? Did Li Peng have too much power? It’s fun to look back on those days with all that uncertainty.
Now Lok Ma Chau overlooks skyscrapers and a state-of-the-art train station. To alleviate the heavy traffic at the Lo Wu border station east of there, the Hong Kong government is encouraging people to cross over at Lok Ma Chau instead.