ON THIS DAY    Witness      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1997: Hong Kong fireworks

It was perhaps the most spectacular end to British rule of any of the country's former colonies.

The handover of Hong Kong from its rulers of 150 years to the Chinese took place at midnight on 1 July 1997.

The ceremony was accompanied by the sort of pomp and grand symbolism expected of an aging empire giving up its last great possession.

Tens of thousands partied, hundreds of fireworks exploded - and the flags even had an artificial breeze to flutter in.

Your stories:

Wow eight years ago today, Hong Kong was ceded back to China. It still sometimes seems like yesterday!

It was one of the rainiest days I have ever experienced (matching London's best rainy day) and everyone was buzzing about the handover. Some were optimistic but some were scared and left. I was in the middle just observing events as an outsider!

It was really sad to see Chris Patten cry as the Union Jack was pulled down and up went the PRC flag. It really did not hit until then that I was watching history in the making that went back to the 1840s!

What was most exciting to me was the countdown clock and seeing everyone count down especially the last few seconds.

It is quite ironic that the handover was Tony Blair's first big occasion as British PM and to see that he still is in power is remarkable!
Sunny, UK

I was living and working in HK during the handover. I remember vividly the firework display over the harbour. I was in the Admiralty District of Hong Kong Island at the time.

The thing that sticks in my mind the most was when we left the display to watch the soldiers arriving from China. They were all stood to attention in the back of open trucks driving through the New Territories and Kowloon.

The amazing thing was that they were rigid (like statues) even in the driving rain. This was the first time I felt that Hong Kong was going to change.

The seriousness of the soldiers' faces along with the rhetoric of the Chinese government made me feel an overwhelming sadness that one of the last colonies of The British Empire was no more.
Dougie, UK

I remember the handover well. It felt something like a New Year party, only a whole lot more significant. And then there was the rain.

One thing sticks out in my mind more than any other: watching the news reports about the rain after we got back home.

The BBC report said the skies were crying for Hong Kong. The Chinese reports said the rain had come to wash away the last vestiges of colonialism from the land.

Our local Hong Kong report, however, simply said there was a lot of rain. Which, to me, was a perfect summary of the whole event.
Chris, USA

It was amazing fire works from the English side were outclasses by those from China, reports coming in the Chinese troop are coming threw New Territories, family members in England calling mobiles with concerns over a news report in England, worrying because I lived in new territories .

New era the first day living in China. Still the same - no troops, everything running as normal, what was the hype.

All I can say is I am proud to have been in Hong Kong pre, during and post.

I hope China keeps Hong Kong the way it was a successful business hub of South East Asia.
Darren Mulqueen, Thailand

I was a member of the team that set off the display from three barges in the harbour. 25,000 fireworks lit up the sky in just 20 minutes, made all the more surreal as each explosion sparkled through the pouring rain.

Each time a volley of shells was fired, the whole barge was driven down into the water a foot or so, leaving you momentarily suspended in the air above the deck.

The display ended with the a huge bang as the deafening noise of six titanium maroons echoed around the Hong Kong skyscrapers.

Then all of a sudden all was quiet, aside from the sound of cheers and applause floating across the harbour.

An unique evening in every sense.
Chris, Britain

I witnessed the handover ceremonies from on board a boat on Victoria Harbour. During the firework display boats were held back behind safety lines. We dodged and weaved to get a better view of the fireworks through the increasing clouds of smoke.


" We watched the distant lights of the British Empire travel towards the horizon "

Simon Church, Hong Kong

After midnight and a deafening salute from all the ships, we followed Britannia and its flotilla of remaining British Naval ships as they left Hong Kong for the last time. It was a spectacular sight with the fire ships spouting great arcs of water.

We eventually stopped following the ships after exiting the eastern end of the Harbour. We were the last boat in pursuit.

Alone in the dark on a quiet sea, we watched the distant lights of the British Empire travel towards the horizon. It was a deeply emotional experience.
Simon Church, Hong Kong

Our party started about 1800 on an open-top double-decker bus to take us to the top hotels in Kowloon. We cried and partied till 0600, then wet and weary drudged home.

It was an eerie feeling, nothing to do with losing Hong Kong, but losing the contact of close friends who were the same nationality. I never had any race problems there, in fact quite the opposite. Britain never controlled HK, the HK people did and a good job they did too.

I always try to "call in" on my way back to my present home in South Korea but nothing compares to the magic and delight of HK.
Howard Parry, UK & S. Korea


" All we had were tears and sadness "

Virginia, Hong Kong

Hong Kong people don't want to be under control of the China government. We felt very sad to see the British Government were leaving us that day.

Fireworks were not for us, smiles on the Chinese faces were not for us, every celebration was not for us. All we had were tears and sadness.
Virginia, Hong Kong

The police tried to make everyone walk in circles close to the fireworks display; there just wasn't enough room to stand still on the harbour side. Instead we were on a "rota" to watch the fireworks.

It was a bizarre mix of drenched people: millions of Chinese who just wanted to see the fireworks, young British crying at the end of the empire, and Japanese tourists taking photos of the British police officers, wrongly believing it must be their last day of work.

I stood at the democracy protest rally and it was me who spotted the police quietly change their cap badges - I was the only person to stand behind them during the rally - and thereby change their allegiances. I pointed out to a reporter standing in front of them. One policeman lent me his badge with the British crown and I took a photo wearing it.
Iain Cowie, UK


" I sang Land of Hope and Glory as loud as I could and got smacked round the head by my uncle "

Richard Tang, UK

I was 16 when at the time of the hand over, and had flown to Hong Kong from the UK only three days earlier. Since I was with my aunt and uncle in HK, I stood on the Kowloon (Chinese) side. How I wish I was standing on the Island side with the British.

I sang Land of Hope and Glory as loud as I could and I got smacked round the head by my uncle who told me to shut up as it was seen to be supporting British rule!

Although Chinese by origin, I didn't want HK returned to China.
Richard Tang, UK

We all went to a friends house on the Peak, hoping for the best view on the Island. Then - about 30 minutes before the ceremony - the clouds came down and completely covered the area - we couldn't see a thing! However, it was a good party with plenty of booze!
Thomas Jackson, Hong Kong

I was in Hong Kong during the handover. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I loved Hong Kong as a British colony. And look at it now.
Phil, US

I was quite young when Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese back in 1997.

At the time I was living in Taiwan, and being so young could not understand the strange relationship between Taiwan and China, after all, what to an eight-year-old is the difference between a 'People's Republic' and a 'Republic'? It confused me.

They were pointing huge forces at each other, separated by a sliver of sea. I didn't know why Hong Kong was being given back.

My young mind became quite furious that one of the last bastions of Britain's power overseas was being given up, without a fight, to the Chinese, not understanding that we'd taken it forcibly in the first place.

Watching Chris Patten and Prince Charles on TV, in Hong Kong, was probably one of, when I look back at it, the most defining factors in a quest to understand politics!
Tom Thistlethwaite, England


Search ON THIS DAY by date   

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |