Hong Kong Handover
On 30 June 1997, a cloudy and rainy day, Chris Pattern, the 28th Governor of Hong Kong moved out of the Government House as part of the Handover process.
The Handover Ceremony was held in the new Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. British and Chinese delegations as well as the media had arrived in Hong Kong to attend the ceremony. The British delegation included Prince Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, and of course Chris Patten.
The People’s Republic of China was represented by President Jiang Zemin, Prime Minister Lee Peng, and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen.
The area around the Convention Centre as well as large parts of the city was crowded with journalists, Hong Kong residents as well as tourist from all over the world arriving to witness the historical event. Also present were activists championing their causes.
The count down
At about 8 PM, the public was treated to a fire works display over the Victoria Harbor. Crowds of tourists and locals turned out at the harbor to admire the fireworks while the media began interviewing people for their thoughts of the handover and the future of Hong Kong.
The Handover Ceremony began with the British and Chinese representatives giving speeches leading to the formal handover at midnight. The British flag was lowered for the last time and at the stroke of midnight, police all over Hong Kong changed their Colonial insignia to a new one representing Hong Kong as the Special Administrative Region (SAR) 香港特別行政區of People’s Republic of China.
Chris Pattern who was appointed as the Governor by the British Government became the last Governor of Hong Kong and Tung Chee Hwa became the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR.
Hong Kong ceased to be a British Colony. The handover event was watched by Chinese crowds in Tian An Men in Beijing and also Chinese migrants in the London Chinatown.
Hong Kong Handover opportunities
While the government prepared for the handover, entrepreneurs were also busy at work. Almost all businesses in Hong Kong were offering some sort of Handover related souvenirs. Popular souvenirs include Handover T Shirts, watches, bags and toys. Perhaps the most interesting souvenir was a “Canned Colonial Air” advertised as “The Gasp of an Empire”.
The Hong Kong Tourist Association promoted the Handover as a historical event to tourists and launched a “100 days of wonders” campaign. A certificate was offered to tourists for visiting Hong Kong during this period. Hotel rate rose dramatically as they anticipated large numbers of in coming tourists. This made perfect sense since the Handover Ceremony had a public dimension as well.
The Hong Kong Handover marked the end of British Imperialism in Asia and was an excellent opportunity for both sides to close an unfortunate chapter in history that was driven by gunboat diplomacy and by the sale of opium.
Unfortunately, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, who attended the Handover ceremony, described the Chinese leaders at the ceremony as “appalling old waxworks” among other things in his journal entry titled “The Handover of Hong Kong or the Great Chinese Takeaway”.
Eight years later, his journal was published in the British press. The prince made history when he took his first legal action in UK to sue the press for publishing his journal.
The Hong Kong Handover was supposed to end a chapter in history but in the end, the prince who thought it was a Great Chinese Takeaway created a new chapter in history with his Great Giveaway.