Hong Kong handover ceremony
The handover ceremony of Hong Kong in 1997 officially marked the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the People's Republic of China. It was an internationally televised event with the ceremony commencing on the night of 30 June 1997 and finishing on 1 July 1997. The ceremony was held at the new wing of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in Wan Chai.
Order of events
Monday, 30 June 1997
- (15:00 HKT/07:00 GMT) – Beijing Police cleared more than 60,000-people off Tiananmen Square for the final preparations of the all-night official celebration gala to mark the return of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China.
- (16:30 HKT/08:30 GMT) – Governor Chris Patten departed from Government House for HMY Britannia.
- (17:30 HKT/09:30 GMT) – President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng arrived in Hong Kong by Air China Boeing 747 from Shenzhen.
- (18:00 HKT/10:00 GMT) – British Hong Kong troops farewell ceremony was held. Governor Chris Patten began his speech with "Today is a day of celebration, not sorrow".
- (18:15 HKT/10:15 GMT) – Sunset farewell ceremony featuring East Tamar Garrison parade on Hong Kong waterfronts.
- (18:30 HKT/10:30 GMT) – Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen met with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.
- (19:30 HKT/11:30 GMT) – Cocktail reception for 4,000 guests at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
- (19:45 HKT/11:45 GMT) – Prime Minister Tony Blair meets for summit talks with President Jiang Zemin.
- (21:00 HKT/13:00 GMT) – About 500 People's Liberation Army vehicles crossed the border from China to Hong Kong. Pro-democracy advocates protest at the Legislative Council in preparation of Chinese rule.
- (22:00 HKT/14:00 GMT) – Beijing celebrations including live performances and fireworks were expected to run for 7-hours. The theme of Beijing Blesses you Hong Kong was under preparation.
- (23:30 HKT/15:30 GMT) – Handover Ceremony officially begins. The Prince of Wales read a farewell speech on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II.
- (23:59:00-23:59:59 HKT/15:59:00-15:59:59 GMT) – Moments before midnight the British Union Flag and Hong Kong Blue Ensign were slowly lowered to the British national anthem "God Save the Queen," symbolising the end of British colonial rule in Hong Kong.
Tuesday, 1 July 1997
- (00:00 HKT/16:00 GMT) – Sovereignty of Hong Kong is officially transferred from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China. The Chinese national flag and new Hong Kong regional flag were simultaneously raised to the Chinese national anthem "March of the Volunteers". President Jiang Zemin gave a speech expressing his optimism for the "one country, two systems" implementation. Grand celebrations begin in the mainland with fireworks displays over Tiananmen Square.
- (00:15 HKT/16:15 GMT) – Charles, Prince of Wales and Governor Chris Patten with his family, bid the citizens of Hong Kong farewell at the Tamar site. They boarded HMY Britannia and sailed to the Philippines before heading back from the People's Republic of China to the United Kingdom. They were escorted by HMS Chatham. Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British officials flew out by a British Airways Boeing 777-200ER from Kai Tak Airport to London's Heathrow Airport.
- (01:30 HKT/17:30 GMT) – A swearing-in ceremony was held at the HKCEC for various HKSAR officials including Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan, Financial Secretary Donald Tsang and Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung.
- (02:45 HKT/18:45 GMT) – The provisional legislature held first meeting after the handover to adopt handover-related laws.
- (06:00 HKT/22:00 GMT) – 4,000-People's Liberation Army troops from the Hong Kong Garrison arrive by land, air and sea.
- (10:00 HKT/02:00 GMT) – The new Hong Kong government hosted a celebration for 4,600-guests. Newly appointed Chief Executive's Tung Chee-hwa made his inaugural speech.
- (16:00 HKT/08:00 GMT) – Chinese Premier Li Peng makes a speech at a reception in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
- (18:00 HKT/10:00 GMT) – Festival Performance by Hong Kong mainland and international celebrities at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
- (19:00 HKT/11:00 GMT) – Grand convention and art spectacle begins at the Workers Stadium in Beijing.
- (20:00 HKT/12:00 GMT) – The 1997 Hong Kong Spectacular featuring Causeway Bay to Victoria Harbour formal Central, Hong Kong fireworks display begins.
In 2005, the British Mail on Sunday revealed Prince Charles's memorandum, of which "Clarence House said only 11 copies were made, circulated to close friends", where he referred to the transfer as the "Great Chinese Takeaway" and the Chinese officials as "appalling old waxworks". In another reported extract, Prince Charles described the ceremony as an "awful Soviet-style" performance and dismissed the speech by President Jiang Zemin as "propaganda", complete with loud cheering "by the bussed-in party faithful at the suitable moment in the text." He also ridiculed the People's Liberation Army's goose-steps in the ceremony and claimed his trip on HMY Britannia out of Hong Kong was closely watched by Chinese warships.
- "Charles sues Mail for printing his 'waxworks' jibe at Chinese leaders", Guardian,, 19 November 2005