Why did the British control Hong Kong over 99 years?

Why did the British control Hong Kong over 99 years?

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There is different version why British Empire took control over Hong Kong.

  • Britain helped China to eliminate pirates in South China Sea. As a sign of appreciation China give control of Hong Kong to Britain.
  • China was weak. Britain, Germany, Russia, France and Japan were willing to partition China. In order to avoid that China gave Hong Kong to Britain and Britain sponsored China.

Maybe there are more variants, I do not know.

Hong Kong became British colony as a result of First Opium War, which was lost by Qing Dynasty of China to United Kingdom. It was part of agreements of Treaty of Nanking that was signed in 1842, as well as huge war reparations.

What's important, original agreement established that Hong Kong becomes British for eternity, not for the exact amount of years. The 99 years period applied to New Territories by which the area of colony was extended in 1898 during Second Convention of Peking.

CHRONOLOGY: Timeline of 156 years of British rule in Hong Kong

(Reuters) - Split between a densely populated mainland and over 200 islands in the South China Sea, the small, strategic territory of Hong Kong was under British rule for 156 years before reverting to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.

Here is a timeline of key events from this period:

-- March 1839: Governor of Hunan, Lin Tse-hsu, orders 20,000 chests of opium destroyed and for traders to retreat to the British merchant fleet anchored off Hong Kong, in an attempt to stamp out British importation of opium to China through southern Guangzhou. The first Opium War starts in September 1839.

-- August 29, 1842: The Queen of England and the Emperor of China sign the Treaty of Nanking the first of a series of so-called ‘Unequal Treaties’ between East Asian states and western powers. The peace deal ends the first Opium War and cedes Hong Kong Island to Britain.

-- October 18, 1860: Kowloon Peninsula is ceded under the Convention of Peking, that ends the second Opium War

Did Britain Fail Hong Kong?

Could Britain have done more in the years leading up to 1997 to ensure Hong Kong's freedoms?

At midnight on June 30th, 1997 Hong Kong reverted from British control back to China. Looking back, did Britain fail the people of Hong Kong?

To answer this question it is important to understand the relative balance of power between China and the United Kingdom. During the 19th century Britain was in its heyday. The Royal Navy could project her power to any seaport in the world. Britain was able to coerce China into signing the treaties that acquired Hong Kong and leased the New Territories for 99 years. By the late 1970s, those days were long gone. Delicate negotiation, rather than gunboat diplomacy, was Britain’s best hope of keeping control of Hong Kong.

Much has been made of Prime Minister Thatcher’s visit to Hong Kong in September 1982. Images of her tripping on the steps at the Great Hall of the People and reports of Deng Xiaoping’s irritation at her proposal of keeping a British presence in Hong Kong, have been well documented and criticised. However before Margaret Thatcher even arrived in Beijing, the British had encountered Deng’s ire over Hong Kong. Deng had made clear his intention to re-acquire Hong Kong and the New Territories to Hong Kong Governor Sir Murray Maclehose in 1979.

Deng hated the treaties that gave control of Hong Kong over to Britain and saw them as invalid. Deng made it clear that the People’s Liberation Army could walk into Hong Kong any time it liked and there was little the British could do about it. Deng felt so sure that he held all the cards he told the Prime Minister in 1982 that if an agreement was not reached within the next two years, China would take unilateral action.

Margaret Thatcher left Beijing chastened and the whole world knew it. Within ten days of Thatcher’s trip to Beijing, the Hong Kong stock market had lost 25 per cent of its value.

Official negotiations began in October 1982 and were tough from the beginning. First, because the Chinese would not continue until Britain acknowledged Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong and then because the British pressed for administration of Hong Kong after 1997. While talks stalled, the Chinese took the initiative in Hong Kong. They released their plans for Special Administrative Regions (SAR), while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began selling unity with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). All the while the British delegates, led by Sir Percy Cradock and later Sir Richard Evans, watched Deng’s deadline approach.

On September 26th, 1984 Ambassador Evans and Zhou Nan initialed the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The British had conceded both sovereignty and administration. It stated that in 1997 Hong Kong would revert back to China with a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs. The people of Hong Kong had no official representative at the talks. The Chinese refused to acknowledge that Sir Edward Youde, then Governor, represented Hong Kong.

The details about how far Hong Kong’s freedoms would stretch would be worked out in the drafting of a Basic Law. The Basic Law Drafting Committee (BLDC) was made up of 82 people, including 23 from Hong Kong. Beijing’s hand skillfully and somewhat covertly guided everything the BLDC did. The end result provides Hong Kong with special status for 50 years, and that one third of the legislative council will be elected from 1997 and half by 2003.

The Executive Council dithered on democratising moves after 1985. Everyone who did want more democratisation was worried about angering Beijing. In February 1990 the British did persuade the Chinese government to agree to increase the number of directly elected members of the Legislative council from 10 to 18. This number would then be increased to 20 in 1997, 24 in 1999 and 30 in 2003 (out of a total of 60 seats). This was far less than what many in Hong Kong had asked for, but it was as far as the British were prepared to push.

In July 1992 Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, arrived. He was a politician, not a diplomat, and didn’t understand the Chinese. Patten made proposals that increased the electorate and modernised electoral techniques. The proposed reforms pushed the Basic Law to its limits, but did not break it. However this was not how Beijing saw it. Patten failed to realise that the Chinese Communist Party didn’t fully understand western democracy. The CCP’s lack of understanding made them think he was trying to do more than he was.

Tired of the lack of progress in negotiations, Patten passed his reforms in the legislative council in June 1994. The Chinese promptly terminated negotiations, claiming the British had broken their agreements. Beijing began to act unilaterally to create a post-1997 government, locking the British out of Hong Kong’s future. As soon as Hong Kong passed to their control, the CCP would dismantle Patten’s changes. They created a provisional legislative council, which included 33 members of the existing council, but selected members who were friendly to them.

During all negotiations the British were hampered by their strategic disadvantage. In addition to this, London pressured the delegates to balance Hong Kong’s value against good relations with a resurgent China. Deng, on the other hand, was willing to do whatever it took to get Hong Kong back. He did not want to damage Hong Kong’s enormous economic value, but he was prepared to weather any storm to erase the shame of the unequal treaties. After the Joint Declaration was signed, power shifted to the Chinese. This is partly because the the declaration reflected the value that the British placed on Hong Kong.

The British never regrouped well after they lost the battle to stay in Hong Kong beyond 1997. If the British had been more organised and assertive prior to Patten’s arrival, they might have been able to entrench democratising moves within the parameters of the Basic Law. The British didn’t completely fail, but they could have done more if they had been willing to challenge Beijing for Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Thomas Benge has a Masters degree in International History from Staffordshire University, and taught full curriculum in Seoul for three years.

How is Hong Kong ruled now?

The leader is the chief executive, elected by a 1,200-member election committee. A majority of the members of this committee are viewed as pro-Beijing.

The parliament is the Legislative Council (LegCo). It is made up half of directly elected representatives and half by representatives chosen by professional or special interest groups.

Political activists argue that the election process gives Beijing the ability to screen out any candidates it disapproves of.

Frederick Stewart, dubbed ‘The Founder of Hong Kong Education’, brought in a Western-style education model when he served as headmaster at the first government school in 1862. Education today is still largely modelled on the English system, and many Hongkongers still regard a British education as the best in the world.

Just like the boozy Brits, hardworking Hongkongers also appreciate a pint or two at the local pub to wind down at the end of the day. There are a number of traditional British style pubs in Hong Kong, many of them clustered in the city’s Wan Chai area, which is popular with nightlife goers. They usually serve a wide range of English ales and ciders. Cheers to that!

Change of guard

2005 March - Amid mounting criticism of his rule, Tung Chee-hwa resigns, citing failing health. He is succeeded in June by Donald Tsang.

2005 May - Hong Kong's highest court overturns the convictions of eight of the Falun Gong members who were found guilty of causing an obstruction in the territory in 2002.

2005 June - Tens of thousands of people commemorate sixteenth anniversary of crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Hong Kong is the only part of China where the 1989 events are marked.

2005 September - Pro-democracy members of LegCo make unprecented visit to Chinese mainland. Eleven members of the 25-strong pro-democracy group had been banned from the mainland for 16 years.

2005 December - Pro-democracy legislators block Mr Tsang's plans for limited constitutional reforms, saying they do not go far enough. Mr Tsang said his plans - which would have changed electoral processes without introducing universal suffrage - went as far as Beijing would allow.

2006 March - Pope Benedict XVI elevates Bishop Joseph Zen, the leader of Hong Kong's 300,000 Catholics and an outspoken advocate of democracy, to the post of cardinal. China warns Cardinal Zen to stay out of politics.

2006 July - Tens of thousands of people rally in support of full democracy.

2007 January - New rules aim to restrict the number of pregnant women from mainland China who come to Hong Kong to give birth. Many had been drawn by the prospect of gaining Hong Kong residency rights for their children and evading China's one-child policy.

2007 April - Chief Executive Donald Tsang is appointed to a new five-year term after winning elections in March.

2007 July - Hong Kong marks 10th anniversary of handover to China. New government under Chief Executive Donald Tsang is sworn in. Plans for full democracy unveiled.

The cultural and economic differences are widely considered as a primary cause of the conflict between Hong Kong and mainland China. The differences between Hong Kong people and mainlanders, such as language, as well as the significant growth in number of mainland visitors, have caused tension.

If it had been feasible, the United Kingdom could have retained Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and returned only the New Territories to China. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon were formally ceded by China to the British, and thus they belonged to Britain outright under international law.

The past, present, and future of the fight to control Hong Kong – Jaweb

Hong Kong marks this year’s Oct. 1—China’s national day—more tightly under Beijing’s rule than ever before in recent memory. Where last year’s Oct. 1 saw citywide protests in a fierce repudiation of China, any attempt at such defiance this year could land protesters in jail for years under the city’s sweeping new national security law. Last year’s forceful resistance has given way to a full-throttle crackdown on dissent as Beijing moves to directly control the city.

But Hong Kong has always defied simple explanations, and the question of whom exactly it belongs to, is no exception. Over the centuries, the city’s degree of control over its own destiny has been in flux—and a sense that the city remains a colony even today has created opposition to China that erupted in mass protests in 2014 and again last year.

Hong Kong was a British colony for over 150 years and served as an important trading hub, before gradually evolving as a manufacturing hub and eventually turning into an international financial center. Though Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the city continued to be a nexus of global connections. Now, as China exerts more direct control over the city, the fight for Hong Kong has gone global.

The present: Hong Kong vs. China

Hong Kong has carved out a curious existence. The semi-autonomous city has, to a certain degree, a say over its own affairs, even if the central government in Beijing ultimately has the final word. Broadly, this arrangement is dubbed “one country, two systems,” where Hong Kong citizens are supposed to enjoy freedoms that their mainland peers don’t have.

Though it is part of China, it has its own flag, passport (which is “stronger” than China’s), border, airline, currency, and legal and judicial systems. Hong Kongers who want to travel to mainland China don’t technically need a visa, but they must apply for a special travel document. That’s colloquially referred as a “home return permit,” even though people might be using it to visit the mainland for the first time.

Hong Kongers have worried since 1997 about losing their distinct character and legal system built on British common law that made it a haven for people fleeing political upheaval in the mainland. Those fears were realized in 2020 when Beijing circumvented the city’s legal procedures to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, rendering the “two systems” part of the arrangement a hollow shell of a principle.

Under the new law, street protest is all but impossible, internet providers can be ordered by the police to take down content, and journalists face arbitrary visa rejections. Yet, the extraterritorial nature of the law means people all over the world feel more invested in Hong Kong’s fate as the city becomes more like China—while its young people feel less Chinese than ever.

The past: Hong Kong under Britain

Hong Kong became a British colony in 1841, after China lost the First Opium War. More territory was ceded after China lost a subsequent war. Some decades later, Britain significantly increased the size of Hong Kong when it signed a 99-year lease for land known as the New Territories.

So why did Britain return Hong Kong to China? With the New Territories lease set to expire in 1997, the UK in the early 1980s began negotiating Hong Kong’s return to China. Part of the reason was that though Hong Kong Island and Kowloon were ceded in perpetuity, it would have been untenable to split the colony and only return the New Territories. The whole territory would have to be returned to Beijing.

The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration set the terms for the handover. Under the agreement, China was obliged to maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, freedoms, and rights for 50 years after the July 1, 1997 handover.

But while Britain’s sovereignty over Hong Kong may be over, its relationship to its former colony isn’t. Many people still have British National Overseas (BNO) passports, a travel document that offered entry but not citizenship. With the arrival of the security law, many democracy activists, see Britain as a new base for Hong Kong activism, even if a flawed one.

In July, in response to Beijing’s actions, the UK government made the unprecedented announcement of opening a citizenship path for 3 million Hong Kongers who are eligible for BNO passports. “We will live up to our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong,” said Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary.

The future: Hong Kong as an independent nation?

Independence is not a demand widely shared by the public. However, while independence was very much a fringe idea just several years ago, it has gained some traction as Beijing increasingly tightened its control of the city.

In spite of the limited public support for Hong Kong’s independence from China, Beijing has cast the city’s democracy movement as “separatist” and “secessionist” in order to discredit it, and to bring in the national security law. The law makes the vaguely defined crime of secession punishable by up to life imprisonment.

While not independent, Hong Kong can set its own taxes, enter trade agreements with other states on its own, and is exempt from tariffs and customs controls applied on Chinese goods. The US’s dealings with Hong Kong recognized it as having a special status until July this year—when the Trump administration revoked that recognition in response to Beijing’s crackdown.

The constant: Controlling Hong Kong’s economy

There’s another way to look at who controls Hong Kong, beside sovereignty: the economy. In that arena, Hong Kong is overwhelmingly dominated by big business interests—both colonial-legacy British multinational conglomerates, and local business tycoons who historically worked closely with the British colonial government, reaping huge profits along the way. After 1997, they held on to their economic might by working closely with Beijing instead.

Jardine Matheson, the 188-year-old British conglomerate, is one of the biggest landlords in Hong Kong’s business district. It made fortunes trading tea and opium between Europe and Asia, and later evolved to be an investment house. Many streets and landmarks are still named after the firm in Hong Kong, where the movement to replace colonial-era names has never taken off.

Swire, the other major legacy group with huge imprints in Hong Kong, is the biggest shareholder in the city’s embattled flagship airline Cathay Pacific, and a major landlord of malls. But 2019 marked a particularly challenging time for Swire as it suddenly found itself squeezed between the pro-democracy protests and Beijing’s political demands.

Then there are the local tycoons. Four local property dynasties control firms with assets worth more than the city’s GDP, according to Bloomberg. Many of these businesses are core to daily life. For example, there is effectively a supermarket duopoly (pdf, p.9) between a chain under the property conglomerate founded by Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, and its rival owned by Jardine Matheson. The tycoons also have a tight grip on electricity and gas providers, and bus services.

The businesses have vast political power, too. Thanks to Hong Kong’s opaque electoral system, corporate special interests have an outsized voice in the local legislature, and overwhelmingly vote along government lines. Meanwhile, the city’s leader is “elected” in a complicated procedure by a 1,200-member committee that is heavily stacked with business interests. For these reasons, avoiding these kinds of businesses, and favoring small establishments, has been one of the many strategies adopted by Hong Kong’s protest movement to express resistance to China.

The past, present, and future of the fight to control Hong Kong Wire Services/ Quartz.


Historically, housing has been a major problem in Hong Kong, where space is limited and the number of occupants ever-growing. Changes in the residential environment between the establishment of the colony in 1842 and the Japanese occupation in 1941 were moderate, compared to those that took place in the postwar years. There was no planning in the earlier days of development, except that generally the British lived on the Peak (the area around Victoria Peak), other nationalities in the Mid-Levels (below the Peak), and the wealthy on somewhat higher ground, where the grand garden houses and large mansions remain as landmarks. Most of the Chinese lived on the lowlands surrounding the harbour, where the streets were narrow and the houses made of wood, bricks, and mortar. The houses lacked not only good natural lighting and ventilation but also piped water and flush toilets. Frequently urban development was the result of plagues, fires, and typhoons rather than of comprehensive city planning. However, the government has made efforts to construct public housing and to reduce the number of squatters and street sleepers in the region.

The limited housing supply was further reduced by the ravages of World War II. In the early postwar years, more than half of all families shared accommodations with others, living in cubicles, bed spaces, and attics and on roofs and verandas and in similar quarters. The colonial government’s reluctant involvement in housing provision began with the building of resettlement blocks for fire victims in 1953, but it took real impetus in the early 1960s when the great demand for urban land resulted in the relocation of large numbers of squatters and urban poor. Public housing came to accommodate more than half of the population, most of them living far from the urban core, though by the early 21st century the proportion of the populace in public units was about one-third. Large numbers of people have settled into the new towns, and the design capacity for most of these areas has been increased.

Hong Kong vs. China Controversies

The sharp contrast in system and culture between Hong Kong and the mainland has caused a fair amount of tension in the years since the handover in 1997. Politically, many Hongkongers have grown increasingly resentful of what they see as increasing mainland meddling in their political system. Hong Kong still has a free press, but pro-mainland voices have also taken control of some of the city’s major media outlets, and in some cases have caused controversy by censoring or downplaying negative stories about China’s central government.

Culturally, Hongkongers and mainland tourists frequently come into conflict when the mainlanders’ behavior doesn’t live up to Hongkongers' strict British-influenced standards. Mainlanders are sometimes derogatorily called “locusts,” a reference to the idea that they come to Hong Kong, consume its resources, and leave a mess behind when they leave. Many of the things Hongkongers complain about—spitting in public and eating on the subway, for example—are considered socially acceptable on the mainland.

Hongkongers have been especially annoyed by mainland mothers, some of whom come to Hong Kong to give birth so that their children can have access to the relative freedom and the superior schools and economic conditions in the city as compared to the rest of China. In past years, mothers also went to Hong Kong to buy massive quantities of milk powder for their infants, as the supply on the mainland was distrusted by many following the tainted milk powder scandal.

Mainlanders, for their part, have been known to lash back at what some of them see as “ungrateful” Hong Kong. People's Republic of China nationalist commentator Kong Qingdong, for example, caused a major controversy in 2012 when he called Hong Kong people “dogs,” a reference to their alleged nature as submissive colonial subjects, which led to protests in Hong Kong.

Why did the British control Hong Kong over 99 years? - History

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HONG KONG, Tuesday, July 1 -- In the first moments after midnight, in a ceremony of solemn precision and martial music, China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong today, ending 156 years of British colonial rule.

Seconds after British soldiers lowered the Union Jack for the last time to the strains of &aposGod Save the Queen,&apos China&aposs red banner was raised, marking the transfer of this free-wheeling capitalist territory to Communist control.

It was an event awaited with trepidation as well as excitement since 1984, when Britain and China agreed on terms for the transfer of power over this territory wrested from China in the 19th century wars over the opium trade. And it ushered a time of uncertainty over whether China would honor its pledge to maintain Hong Kong&aposs way of life largely unaltered for the next 50 years.

For many ordinary people in the streets of Hong Kong, this was a time of celebration, not necessarily over the departure of the British or the arrival of the new masters from Beijing, but for experience of witnessing a big moment in history. [Page A9.]

In the convention center where the handover of power took place, China&aposs President, Jiang Zemin, using a Mandarin dialect as alien to Hong Kong&aposs Cantonese-speaking people as the English of the British authorities, declared the event &aposa festival for the Chinese nation and a victory for the universal cause of peace and justice.&apos

&aposThe return of Hong Kong to the motherland after a century of vicissitudes indicates that from now on, our Hong Kong compatriots have become true masters of this Chinese land and that Hong Kong has now entered a new era of development,&apos Mr. Jiang said.

Change came quickly as the territory&aposs new rulers assumed control.

At the stroke of midnight, Hong Kong&aposs elected legislature was abolished, and a Beijing-appointed body of lawmakers took its place. A range of Hong Kong&aposs civil liberties were rolled back as new constraints were placed on the right to protest and association, and any form of speech promoting the independence of Taiwan or Tibet was banned.

Change came in small ways too. Across Hong Kong, police officers, fire fighters and all the uniformed services unpinned their colonial insignia and replaced it with the new symbols of China&aposs Hong Kong. The British coat of arms was removed from above the main government building at midnight, and the royal emblem was pried from the Rolls-Royce that used to ferry the British Governor about and will now serve Hong Kong&aposs new Chief Executive.

Quietly, almost forgotten, Prince Charles of Britain and the former colonial Governor, Chris Patten, were driven from the handover ceremony to the harbor front, where the royal yacht Britannia waited to bear them away from Hong Kong.

Shortly after the midnight change of sovereignty, President Jiang gave the oath of office to Beijing&aposs choice to govern this territory, Tung Chee-hwa, a 60-year-old British-educated shipping magnate.

As dawn broke, an unbroken procession of Chinese Army armored personnel carriers, trucks and buses carrying 4,000 soldiers streamed over the border and through the streets of Hong Kong. At villages along the way, thousands of Hong Kongers waited in the rain, waving flags and bouquets of flowers and shouting welcomes to the soldiers.

British rule ended in a ceremony whose details exhausted the negotiating skills of both sides.

On a simple dais inside the just completed Exhibition and Convention Center, two pairs of flagpoles -- one flying the Union Jack and the British Hong Kong flag, the other bare -- stood before chairs for Mr. Jiang&aposs party and those accompanying Prince Charles.

Prince Charles spoke briefly. &aposThe United Kingdom,&apos he declared, &aposhas been proud and privileged to have had responsibility for the people of Hong Kong, to have provided a framework of opportunity in which Hong Kong has so conspicuously succeeded, and to have been part of the success which the people of Hong Kong have made of their opportunities.&apos

&aposGod Save the Queen&apos was played by a band of Scots Guards in tall, bearskin hats, and the Union Jack was brought down.

After a five-second pause, time for British cymbals to stop vibrating, the Chinese national anthem was played and the Chinese flag raised alongside the new flag of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong had returned to Chinese rule.

The transfer from British rule began at 4:30 P.M. Monday, when the doors of Government House, the home for British governors since 1855, opened and Mr. Patten, his wife, Lavender, and their three daughters walked down the steps.

Drawn up at attention in the sweeping circular drive was the police band in snow-white tunics. In a blue suit, the bags under his eyes heavier than usual, his now gray-white hair a bit disheveled, Mr. Patten mounted a small stepped dais.

The band broke into the first stanza of &aposGod Save the Queen,&apos and Mr. Patten, Hong Kong&aposs 28th Governor, lowered his head, swallowing heavily in a surge of emotion, emotion that would shake the Governor repeatedly through the day.

Eight officers from the Royal Police Training School snapped through a sharply choreographed flipping of rifles, turns and slow-step marching in a salute to the last Governor.

Stepping from the dais, Mr. Patten walked slowly down a line of representatives of each of the territory&aposs services, from the Correctional Services Department to the Auxiliary Medical Services, all in wilting white dress uniforms.

Then, as a single bugler played &aposLast Post,&apos a thin drizzle brushed the courtyard, and the British flag slipped down the flagpole. The police band struck up Mr. Patten&aposs favorite song, &aposHighland Cathedral,&apos and with the folded flag on a royal blue pillow, he stepped into a Rolls-Royce.

Slowly, the long black car flying the Governor&aposs ensign from the hood circled the courtyard before Government House three times, a Chinese ritual performed by all previous governors to signal &aposwe shall return.&apos

As Mr. Patten&aposs car pulled from the gates of Government House, gates that still bore the Queen&aposs seal, crowds waved and cheered. A small contingent of police officers in their green summer uniforms swung the iron gates closed, ending 122 years of British residence.

The drizzle turned to showers and then to a downpour that washed the harbor front in sheets of monsoon-borne rains. Still, the British farewell ceremony began sharply at 6:15 P.M. as a gray sky melted into hues of gold and rose. Two dragon dance teams rose and fell across a tarmac ground that once was the main British naval base here.

A succession of performances by choirs and orchestras, and arias sung by Dame Gwyneth Jones and Warren Mok followed.

With rain pelting down on him, Mr. Patten delivered his final speech as Governor, a short piece of oratory that remained as robustly defiant as any he has given, a declaration of his own principles as Governor and a public challenge to much of Chief Executive Tung&aposs philosophy of governance.

&aposOur own nation&aposs contribution here,&apos he said, &aposwas to provide the scaffolding that enabled the people of Hong Kong to ascend: the rule of law, clean and light-handed government, the values of a free society. The beginnings of representative government and democratic accountability.&apos

&aposHong Kong&aposs values are decent values,&apos he continued. &aposThey are universal values. They are the values of the future in Asia as elsewhere, a future in which the happiest and the richest communities, and the most confident and the most stable too, will be those that best combine political liberty and economic freedom as we do today.&apos

At 8:45 in the evening, just after the fireworks celebrating British rule ended, 509 officers, soldiers and sailors from the Chinese Army began moving over the border in glossy black Audis, buses and open-back trucks, in which troops stood at attention, their white gloved hands gripping the wooden side rails. Other trucks in camouflage paint, some with green canvas covers, followed slowly behind.

In Hong Kong&aposs newly built convention center, a curving, sculpted-roofed edifice jutting into the harbor, a banquet was given by the British for 4,000 guests, including Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and China&aposs Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen, who has spearheaded Beijing&aposs arrangements for Hong Kong.

Over Scottish salmon, stuffed chicken breast and a red fruit pudding with raspberry sauce, Hong Kong&aposs wealthiest and most powerful people, British and Chinese alike, ate their last meal under a British flag.

Neither President Jiang nor Prime Minister Li Peng, the first Communist Chinese leaders to set foot in colonial Hong Kong, attended the banquet.

With only an hour of sovereignty left, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook of Britain, relaxed with hands in his pockets, waited at the entrance of the new Hong Kong convention center, Chief Executive Tung at his side, for the arrival of President Jiang.

An honor guard of Black Watch in white jackets and kilts stood at attention.

Mr. Jiang&aposs black bulletproof Mercedes, with both Hong Kong and Chinese license plates, arrived moments later. The Chinese President was helped from the car, and Mr. Patten shook his hand, saying simply, &aposWelcome to Hong Kong.&apos

Against the surge of patriotic sentiment and the wisps of nostalgia for the departed British, there were protests from pro-democracy figures who had been expelled from the legislature with the advent of Chinese rule.

From the balcony of the Legislative Council building, Martin Lee, the leader of the pro-democracy forces in the disbanded legislature, told thousands of demonstrators that democracy would return to Hong Kong.

&aposWe know,&apos he told the crowd below, &aposthat without a democratically constituted government and legislature, there is no way for our people to be insured that good laws will be passed to protect their freedoms.&apos

&aposIf there is no democracy, there is no rule of law,&apos he continued. &aposWe want Hong Kong and China to advance together and not step back together. We are proud to be Chinese, more proud than ever before. But we ask: Why is it our leaders in China will not give us more democracy? Why must they take away the modest democracy we have fought so hard to win from the British Government?&apos

Meanwhile, detachments of Chinese troops fanned out across Hong Kong, taking possession of military bases. At the Prince of Wales barracks, still bearing that name this morning, an honor guard stood at attention while the Chinese flag was raised. And on the radio station that had served British forces here, 107.4 FM, there was nothing but the hiss of empty static.

At Possession Point, the place where on Jan. 26, 1841, Capt. Edward Belcher first raised the British flag, there were memories, expressions of happiness, pride and worry.

On a bench in what is now Hollywood Road Park, Choy Sum Mui, 75, reflected on her long life and the future that awaits her under a new sovereign.

&aposI came to Hong Kong when the Japanese bombed my village,&apos she said, speaking slowly. &aposI&aposm illiterate, so I don&apost know much about things unless people tell me. People say this is Possession Point, but it doesn&apost mean much to me. I&aposve never seen a Communist before. I don&apost know what they are like. Really, I&aposm so old already, all this change doesn&apost mean much to me.&apos

On Possession Street, a Mr. Lam, 72, said: &aposIt&aposs a good thing we can finally get rid of the imperialists. We&aposre all Chinese. I feel great. This land belongs to China.&apos

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