British events mark change of rule

Chinese residents of Britain will be able to witness the Hong Kong handover ceremony as it happens, even if they can't afford the price of a plane ticket to the Orient.

A "video-wall" is to be hoisted at the centre of London's Chinatown so that locals can watch the event live and free of charge, as it is beamed by satellite from the South China Sea.

"Hong Kong is reunited with her motherland, and this is a day to be cherished by all Chinese over the world," said Tim Yau, president of the London Chinatown Association. "We want every Chinese in London to be able to participate in this historical moment together with our fellow countrymen in Hong Kong and elsewhere around the globe. We believe the video-wall live broadcast is the best possible way to provide such a free opportunity."

The television sets forming the wall, which have been provided by The Chinese Channel, will be switched on at 12 noon on June 30.

"While all our subscribers will be watching our simultaneous live broadcast... of the Hong Kong handover ceremony and celebrations at home, we want to share our joy and excitement towards our own homeland with all the others," said Thomas Li, general manager of the Chinese Channel.

The live broadcast will continue non-stop until 7.30pm, when the celebrations finish in the early hours of July 1 in Hong Kong.

Elsewhere, celebrations within Chinatown will begin at 6.30pm, with Chinese dragon parades, and receptions.

Similar celebrations will also take place in Birmingham's Chinatown, where between 12pm and 4.30 on July 1 there will be a parade, reception and speech, entertainments including Chinese dragons and fireworks. Similar activities are planned for Liverpool on July 6, with a party for local business and community figures.

"One chapter ends and a new one begins. We want to have minimal problems because it will do us no good if there is tension between the UK and China. We hope it will be a positive new beginning," said Brian Wong, vice chair and secretary of Liverpool Chinatown Business Association.

There will be more sober celebrations in diplomatic circles. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy said it would be holding a reception for local politicians and "friends of the embassy" from 7pm - 9pm on 30 June. For Portsmouth's Chinese community, the handover came early. They celebrated Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule on 17 June.