History stood still at this point of time; but history also turned over to a new page. At zero hour on July 1, 1997, the five-star red flag of China and the flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) rose slowly and solemnly to the top of their respective poles at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, marking the return of Hong Kong to the motherland-the People's Republic of China. The event ushered in a new era for Hong Kong and the interior areas to develop hand-in-hand. The lowering of the British Union Jack meant the end to an old era-British colonial rule in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong back home
Hong Kong on June 30 was a magnet for the world. The Hong Kong handover ceremony was to be held. At 17:16, the Chinese Government delegation led by Jiang Zemin, president of the People's Republic of China, arrived at Kai Tak Airport on a special plane. Twelve minutes later, Jiang Zemin got off the plane with his left foot touching land first. Reporters from all over the world lost no time in recording the historic moment with their clicking cameras. Everyone present was well aware that Jiang was the first top Chinese leader to set foot on Hong Kong since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Midnight. The new extension of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center was brightly lit. In the 5th Floor Hall, more than 4,000 people were seated in a mood of serious expectancy. They included government officials from some 40 countries, secretary-generals of over 30 international organizations, and public figures of Hong Kong and China's hinterland. They came for the handover ceremony sponsored by the Chinese and British governments, eye-witnessing the transfer of government power in Hong Kong. Also present were more than 400 reporters from all over the world. They were ready to record the historic event with cameras, pens and radio cassette recorders.
23:47. Major leaders of China and the United Kingdom were seated on both sides of the front row on the rostrum. The Chinese side included President Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng, Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, CPC Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman Zhang Wannian, and HKSAR Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa. The British side included Prince Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Military Representative Charles Guthrie, and Chris Patten, the 28th and the last British governor of Hong Kong. Prince Charles addressed the handover ceremony, announcing that the United Kingdom was to end its administration over Hong Kong in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
23:59:15. The British national flag and the old flag of Hong Kong were brought down to the playing of the British national anthem. It had been 156 years and five months and four days since the British forcibly took control of Hong Kong, Chinese territory, on January 26, 1841.
0:00 on July 1. The national flag of the People's Republic of China and the HKSAR flag were hoisted as a band played the national anthem of the People's Republic of China. President Jiang Zemin, walking steadily and robustly, mounted the platform on the Chinese side. He announced with a loud and clear voice: From now on, China will resume exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, and Hong Kong will enter a brand new era! Prolonged applause resounded around the hall. At this time, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison began to march in for the military handover with the British army garrison. The national flags of the People's Republic of China rose in the 14 barracks formerly owned by the British garrison. A national flag-hoisting ceremony was held also in the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the HKSAR. Almost at the same time, Hong Kong police on duty removed British "crown" insignia from their hats and put on the bauhinia, the insignia of the HKSAR. At this moment, Hong Kong and the rest of China as well as the whole world acclaimed Hong Kong's homeward return and an end to the 150-odd-year humiliation to the Chinese nation, a great moment which the Chinese had dreamed of for generations. The spell of excitement generated by the historic moment for the Chinese at home and overseas, and its influence and impact on China and the world at large are beyond description. The moment will go down in history, and the Chinese will bear in mind this moment for ever.
The Birth of the HKSAR
British Prince Charles and ex-governor Chris Patten left Hong Kong aboard the British royal yacht Britannia after the handover ceremony. While they were on way back home, the Chinese were moving forward.