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1997: Hong Kong handed over to Chinese control

VIDEO : Final goodbye as Hong Kong is handed over

Hong Kong has been handed back to the Chinese authorities - ending more than 150 years of British control.

The British flag was lowered over Government House - home to the last Governor Chris Patten for the past five years - at midnight last night.

The flag was presented to Mr Patten who was then driven off in his official Rolls Royce, before the car was handed over to Tung Chee-hwa, the territory's Chief Executive.

In his farewell speech, Mr Patten said: "The story of this great city is about the years before this night and the years of success that will surely follow it."

Britain has controlled Hong Kong island since 1842 - apart from a brief period during World War II when the Japanese took over.

A huge fireworks display lit up Victoria Harbour at 2000 local time. One hour later, 4,000 guests sat down to a banquet in the Convention Centre on the harbour front, while 509 Chinese troops crossed the land border into Hong Kong.

Among the guests for the final handover ceremony at the Convention Centre were Prince Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Chris Patten. Chinese dignitaries included President Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and military leader General Zhang Wannian.

Final farewell

In Beijing the ceremony was watched on giant screens erected in Tiananmen Square.

At the stroke of midnight, the red digits of the countdown clock turned to zero and the handpicked crowd roared its approval.

Shortly afterwards, Prince Charles and Mr Patten boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia and waved a final farewell to the strains of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory.

Just half an hour after the handover, there was a demonstration by the Hong Kong Democratic Party outside the Legislative Council building - but it did not delay the inauguration of the new Special Administrative Region government.

Tung Chee-hwa was sworn in as Hong Kong's new leader.

"This is a momentous and historic day ... Hong Kong and China are whole again," said Mr Tung.

But he promised, "We value this empowerment and we will exercise our powers prudently and responsibly."

In Context
Discussions between Britain and China on the future of Hong Kong began in 1982.

After 22 rounds of formal talks, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Chinese counterpart, Zhao Ziyang, signed the Joint Declaration in 1984.

In 1992, Chris Patten was sworn in as the last governor of Hong Kong with a remit to prepare for the colony's democratic future under Chinese rule.

Democratic elections were held in 1995 for the new Legislative Council.

Proposals to introduce controversial new security laws in 2002 galvanised public opinion to a degree not seen since the handover.


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