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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Hong Kong during the 1990s
On 1 July, Hong Kong marks the 10th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule after 156 years of British administration.

WILSON CHONG, FINANCIAL WORKER

Wilson Chong
People were very sad to see the British go
During the late 1980s Hong Kong movies and Canto pop ruled the Chinese-speaking world. The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was just another industrial area next to Hong Kong.

I went to Britain in 1984 to study. I used to go back to Hong Kong every summer.

The summer of 1989 changed a lot for Hong Kong [because of the suppression of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square]. People started emigrating to Canada and Australia. I think the British government could have handled it better. The mass escape didn't stop until 1997.

I returned to Hong Kong in 1996, just under two years before the handover. Things were good. The employment rate was nearly 100%. Finding a job was so easy. Many Brits came over because work permit was not necessary.

People could do the odd job here and there. Brits could teach English to kids and earn a decent living. So, I guess it was an ideal midway stop for backpackers in those days.

Hong Kong skyline
Hong Kong skyline on the day of the handover
I remember two things about 1997. The historic moment when Lee Lai Shan won the first Olympic gold medal for windsurfing - the first and last time in our history. The second thing was Chris Patten's daughter in tears when they were leaving Hong Kong.

Everyone was sad to see the Patten family slowly sailing away from Victoria Harbour. During the handover, it was raining and that seemed to match the mood of the people, who were sad to see the British go.

However, people quickly got back to work and focused on making more money on the stock market.

Shortly afterwards came the Asian financial crisis, bird flu, Sars and for the first time in two decades unemployment rates were rising. Shenzhen became a shopping paradise for Hong Kong people as things were cheaper.

Star Ferry

Movement between the two cities became a norm. The Shenzhen skyline with its new skyscrapers is just like the famous Hong Kong skyline. Shenzhen has become Hong Kong's backyard. Mainland China and Hong Kong are closer than ever before - not by political but by economic force.

So many things have changed in such a short time. Putonghua [Mandarin - the official language in mainland China] was loathed in the 1980s. Who could image that in 2007 every parent in Hong Kong would want to make sure their kids can speak proper Putonghua?

The skyline may change but the recent protest to save the Queen's Pier from demolition suggests that Britain isn't forgotten and that it's always in our heart.





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