of Hong Kong
was on June 30th, 1997 when Hong Kong's population came out to celebrate
the handing over of their country to its rightful possessor. It was the
media event of the year, with more than 8,000 journalists hounding the
territory. Recorded in the territory's history as the biggest celebration
ever in Hong Kong, there were parties, street celebrations, and fireworks
that lighted up the entire island. Hong Kong people from all walks of
life - Chinese, Caucasians, and more - thronged the streets and rejoiced
with a festive spirit and a sense of humor.
At the political
end, the major diplomats who had or will have a part in Hong Kong's future
gathered in the new, glass-encased extension to the HK Convention and
Exhibition Centre. Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Li
Peng, Hong Kong's new Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, outgoing Governor
Chris Patten, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, and former
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were all present.
the Union Jack made its slow descent down the flagpole as the British
military band played 'God Save the Queen' for the last time. The Chinese
flag took its way up the pole as the Chinese anthem played on. After 156
years of colonial rule, Hong Kong was now back in the hands of the Chinese.
Before boarding the royal yacht Britannia just after midnight, Chris Patten
shook hands with the crowds of people near the vessel. With the band still
performing, Patten and Prince Charles waved to the crowd as the 'Britannia'
sailed away into darkness.
At the Convention
Centre, Hong Kong's civil servants swore allegiance to the People's Republic
of China in Mandarin. The elected law-making Legislative Council was scrapped
immediately after the handover. Martin Lee and his members of the opposition
Democratic Party staged the first democratic rally under the new rulers
to ensure that democracy in Hong Kong stayed on. Early next morning, the
People's Liberation Army troops crossed border into the New Territories,
embraced by hundreds of villagers lining the roads. That evening, the
Chinese had their own celebration with a spectacular display of fireworks
in Victoria Harbour that recreated the sky and harbor into a ray of colored