Hong Kong Handover: Peking revellers will party to order

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The Independent Online
"It's going to be an organised event, so ordinary people are advised not to go there, to stay at home, and watch television," said Long Xinmin, from the Leading Group of Peking's Activities for Celebrating the Return of Hong Kong to the Motherland yesterday.

But for 100,000 selected participants, the night of 30 June will mean an all-night party in Tiananmen Square, where the guests must have the stamina to last until sunrise.

The very precise organisation means that the event will start at 10pm, but revellers will stay until exactly 5.10am for the dawn raising of the national flag.

With the just weeks to go before the handover, China yesterday gave the first details of its own planned celebrations, events during which spontaneity is not encouraged.

Nothing has been left to chance. It has already been decreed, for instance, that as midnight approaches, the 100,000 people in Tiananmen Square will only shout out a public countdown for the final 10 seconds.

At midnight, they will break into the national anthem in union with the mainland leadership who are down in Hong Kong for the official handover ceremony.

Three giant television screens will be erected in the square so that everyone can watch the Hong Kong swearing in ceremony for the new Peking- blessed legislature, followed by more fireworks and celebrations. No one mentioned what would happen if it rained.

Two days of activities will reach a climax with a gala show on the evening of 1 July at the Workers' Stadium, with 18,000 performers and in the presence of President Jiang Zemin, who has decided not to hang around in Hong Kong.

"It will be grander than any event held ever before at the stadium," said Zhu Zuhu, one of its organisers, adding that it would consume twice as much electricity as any previous event.

Applying the principle of "grandeur going with frugality", company sponsorship has been encouraged; the Peking Yanshang Oil and Chemical Company has provided 12,000 square metres of carpet, and the China Oil and Chemical Company is putting up 200 canisters of helium.

The whole of Peking is already gearing itself up for the handover, amid a government-encouraged state of euphoria based on the principle that, as Mr Long reiterated yesterday, the return of Hong Kong is "a grand event whereby the Chinese people will wipe away the humiliation of the past 100 years". Officially it is described as a "campaign of patriotism".

Giant banners started going up at the weekend, and by 28 June there will be 100,000 of them strung around the city, and 800,000 illumination lights. A national flag 97.5 metres wide and 65 metres deep has been made for the celebrations.

No day goes by now without work units being organised to partake in handover activities. Each one must get the official go-ahead. This past weekend included a "Create A Beautiful Tomorrow Jointly" evening party by the East District residents in front of the International Hotel; 25 Yangko folk dance teams in front of the All China Women's Association building performing a "Millions of People Celebrate the Return of Hong Kong Heartily" dance; and in front of the Air China Ticket Building, the Peking No 4 School for deaf-mutes performed the dance "Silence Expectation".

Party, government and army organisations are all involved in the preparations, and it goes without saying the security will be very tight on the night.

Only those Chinese with passes will be allowed anywhere near the official Peking events, and Tiananmen Square will be cordoned off from the afternoon of 30 June.

The Chinese government is most worried about the threat of disturbances from the Muslim Uighur separatists from Xinjiang province, who staged a series of bus bombs earlier this year.