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1984: UK and China agree Hong Kong handover

VIDEO : Britain's final draft for hand back of Hong Kong

Britain and China have finalised an agreement which will end more than 150 years of UK rule in Hong Kong.

The proposal - which will hand control of the colony to China in 1997 - creates an "island of capitalism" within a communist state.

In a ceremony at the Great Hall of People in Beijing the document was initialled by the UK ambassador to China, Sir Richard Evans, and the head of the Chinese negotiating team, Zhou Nan.

The British Government has been asked to give its approval to the treaty which ends two years of hard bargaining between the countries.

Under the accord, the Chinese authorities have agreed Hong Kong will maintain a high degree of local autonomy and keep power over its social, economic and legal systems.

But China will gain control of the city's defence and foreign affairs.

Britain, which has controlled the island of Hong Kong almost interrupted since 1842, has also persuaded the Chinese to leave the colony untouched for 50 years and provide a plan for its future.

'Blueprint'

Sir Richard said the joint declaration was "the practical embodiment of the imaginative concept of one country, two systems".

The Governor of the island, Sir Edward Youde, flew straight back from the ceremony to address a special meeting of the Hong Kong Legislative Council about the agreement.

"It constitutes a blueprint for a new stage in Hong Kong's development - as such I commend it to this council and to the community at large," he said.

The British Government has set up an assessment office to gauge the public response to the White Paper.

But although the people of Hong Kong can technically reject the proposals, the declaration makes it clear any other agreement may not go so far to protect their interests.

In Context
The agreement was finally signed in December 1984.

Control of the colony was handed over to the Chinese at midnight on 1 July 1997 after a spectacular ceremony.

Prince Charles and Chris Patten - the twenty-eighth and final governor of Hong Kong - left the island on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

They left a population with mixed feelings about the incoming regime and Hong Kong's Democratic Party already protesting against what it saw as the loss of democracy.

The Provisional Legislative Council, lead by Tung Chee-hwa and picked by Beijing, was sworn in almost immediately after the handover, replacing the previous elected body.


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