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The Handover

It was on June 30th, 1997 when Hong Kong's population came out to celebrate the handing over of their country to its rightful possessor. It was the media event of the year, with more than 8,000 journalists hounding the territory. Recorded in the territory's history as the biggest celebration ever in Hong Kong, there were parties, street celebrations, and fireworks that lighted up the entire island. Hong Kong people from all walks of life - Chinese, Caucasians, and more - thronged the streets and rejoiced with a festive spirit and a sense of humor.

At the political end, the major diplomats who had or will have a part in Hong Kong's future gathered in the new, glass-encased extension to the HK Convention and Exhibition Centre. Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Li Peng, Hong Kong's new Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, outgoing Governor Chris Patten, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were all present.

Near midnight, the Union Jack made its slow descent down the flagpole as the British military band played 'God Save the Queen' for the last time. The Chinese flag took its way up the pole as the Chinese anthem played on. After 156 years of colonial rule, Hong Kong was now back in the hands of the Chinese. Before boarding the royal yacht Britannia just after midnight, Chris Patten shook hands with the crowds of people near the vessel. With the band still performing, Patten and Prince Charles waved to the crowd as the 'Britannia' sailed away into darkness.

At the Convention Centre, Hong Kong's civil servants swore allegiance to the People's Republic of China in Mandarin. The elected law-making Legislative Council was scrapped immediately after the handover. Martin Lee and his members of the opposition Democratic Party staged the first democratic rally under the new rulers to ensure that democracy in Hong Kong stayed on. Early next morning, the People's Liberation Army troops crossed border into the New Territories, embraced by hundreds of villagers lining the roads. That evening, the Chinese had their own celebration with a spectacular display of fireworks in Victoria Harbour that recreated the sky and harbor into a ray of colored light.

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