Prince Wong was still in her mother's womb when the Chinese government reclaimed control over Hong Kong from the British in the summer of 1997. She was born nearly three months later, on Sept. 27, into what some here call the city's "cursed generation."

For her 23rd birthday this year, Wong posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a pastel-striped paper hat trimmed with pink pompoms. She has a slight smile on her face as she looks down at her birthday cake, a moment of celebration at odds with her words below: "There are great sorrows in life that cannot be washed away with tears. Is life always so painful? Or is it only when I was young?"

On a recent day, Wong spun a gold ring on her finger in continuous circles as she spoke quietly about the past year of her life. It has been a year filled with disappointment and dread.