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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 July 2007, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Parades and protests mark HK anniversary
By Jill McGivering
BBC News, Hong Kong

Fireworks over Victoria Harbour
Fireworks ended a weekend of festivities
The 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule was a day of contrasts.

It started early with a solemn flag-raising ceremony in Wanchai district, to the strains of the Chinese national anthem.

Almost immediately afterwards came the swearing-in of the new government and its head, Chief Executive Donald Tsang, in the presence of the guest of honour, Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Security was tight, and the Hong Kong government seemed determined not to allow any disruption which might embarrass the mainland leader.

I think for most of the Hong Kong people, we are quite ready to vote for the chief executive
Pro-democracy marcher

Both President Hu and Mr Tsang used the opportunity to hail the success of the 'one country, two systems' political formula for Hong Kong under Chinese rule, in speeches laden with mutual praise.

Mr Tsang also repeated a promise that he would make his next government more open and democratic.

Joy and celebration

Once these ceremonies had been completed, it was time for the people of Hong Kong to join in, warily watching the thick, low clouds for the rain which occasionally burst through.

As the participants in the anniversary parade got ready, the Happy Valley race course became a giant backstage arena.

Young children stood patiently, their faces tipped upwards like sunflowers, while aunts and mothers painted the final touches of make-up.

Young men practised banging out their drumming routines, while others leapt and cavorted in dragon dance costumes.

Dragon dancers in the streets of Hong Kong
Thousands took part in a colourful street parade
Senior citizens giggled as they moved through their fan dances.

When the parade finally set off through the streets, the line of marching, dancing, flag waving people seemed to go on forever. The mood was light and jolly, with a strong sense of family and community.

The police struggled to co-ordinate the trams, the traffic and the parading people - and the rain came down, but no-one really seemed to mind.

Political protest

A couple of hours later, a second, very different rally began, filling the streets of Causeway Bay and Wanchai as tens of thousands of people, ten deep, marched for democracy. Here the mood was more serious and the banners home-made.

Some sections were organised by specific unions, others by political parties.

When I stopped people to ask why they were marching, their answers were varied. Some wanted a more just society, led by a more socially responsible government.

Some wanted better pay for their industry - for teachers, for example, who were out in force.

Others wanted to send a political message to the mainland that Hong Kong could be the tail that wagged the dog, as far as political change was concerned.

The agreement between China and Britain at the time of the handover noted that the people of Hong Kong would eventually have the right to elect their own leader and mini parliament, the legislative council.

Pro-democracy protesters in the centre of Hong Kong
The mood of the pro-democracy protesters was more sombre
But so far there has been no guarantee of when this will happen - a fact many of the marchers were keen to emphasise.

"I think for most of the Hong Kong people, we are quite ready to vote for the chief executive and so on," said one marcher, "but it seems as if the government doesn't trust our ability and isn't giving us what we deserve."

Another protester, a teacher, said he was protesting against a range of things, from teachers' pay to the need for democracy.

"I think I would like to see universal suffrage, everybody get a vote," he said.

I asked him why he thought that was so important. "It's a chance to express your discontent," he said, "and also a kind of expression to mainland China.

"If we come out to express our views, it's like establishing a tradition. So I would try to set up this tradition and pass it on."

Facing the future

The final spectacle came in the evening with a sound and light show, and the massive fireworks display which lit up the entire harbour.

Rich or poor, at a champagne party on the top floor of a skyscraper, or just crowded in the street against the railings, this was something everyone could see and enjoy.

The 10-year anniversary, in all its forms, has reflected well the contradictions and confusion in Hong Kong.

There is a certain euphoria at the moment - relief about a thriving economy and a political experiment which is mostly a great success; pride in China and its growing achievements - and Hong Kong's new role as part of it.

But there is uncertainty too - about what the next 10 years will bring, and when Hong Kong's people really will have the control over their own affairs that so many dearly want.


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Hong Kong anniversary fireworks



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