Hong Kong handover: What the Chinese press had to say on eve of the colony's new era

Angelica Cheung runs her eye over Hong Kong's newspapers on the last day of colonial rule

On the last day under British rule, Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong focused on the arrival of state leaders from all over the world to attend the handover ceremony, the preparation work for last night's celebration and celebration activities in Chinese communities all over the world.

Additional stories included research which showed a sudden drop in confidence towards the "one-country, two-systems" policy, because some people were worried about Hong Kong's economic future and suspected that freedom would be restricted. The report said many people got depressed and nervous as the handover began to loom.

Several papers reported on the preparation work of more than 10,000 people in villages close to the Chinese border to welcome the arrival of the People's Liberation Army soldiers on the morning of 1 July. On top of that, thousands of villagers spontaneously organised "welcome teams" to meet the Chinese army.

Other reports included the news that Shenzhen public security bureau had received information that two separatists from Xinjiang province on the north-west border had entered the city at the Hong Kong-China border, and were planning to place bombs, possibly at the railway station during the handover.

There were also reports said to be from British military intelligence sources which said that the IRA was planning to create trouble in Hong Kong to attract world attention.

On the China pages, the Economic Journal reported that Peking had decided to carry out a major reorganisation of its publishing business. All the internally distributed publications would be closed down and registration for new newspapers had stopped since early last year. At present, there are 2,202 registered newspapers in China, plus more than 6,400 internally distributed ones.

On the entertainment front, action star Jackie Chan had returned to the territory from shooting of his new movie to participate in the handover extravaganza, playing the role of lead drummer. For the first time in 20 years, seven top stuntmen-turned action stars would reunite, and put on a show to celebrate the handover.

All the editorials of the Chinese press commented on the end of the British colonial rule last night.

The out-spoken Apple Daily, owned by anti-Communist businessman Jimmy Lai, said that when the British occupied Hong Kong during the Opium War, they never expected that the deserted island would become the most free and prosperous economic centre in the world.

It said Hong Kong's history reflected the merging of two different kinds of culture which had made the territory a place of creativity. The paper said the British had come with shame, but after creating a wonder of the world, they could retreat with honour.

The mainstream Ming Pao pointed out that although Hong Kong should go back to China, people should think about what British legacy should be preserved after the handover.

It said the British had set up a sensible and modern system, so that diligent Hong Kong people could compete freely on an equal footing and make use of the opportunities brought by China's open-door policy. The paper said the efficient system comprised three parts, a free-market economy, a clean and efficient bureaucratic team, and rule of law, which the new government should maintain.

The business daily Hong Kong Economic Times commented on the potential economic changes brought by the handover, saying that under British colonial rule, British companies had enjoyed privileges in the territory.

But in a new era which began today, the dominant players on Hong Kong's economic scene would be Hong Kong Chinese and mainland capitals, and if the British could put themselves in a proper position, they could continue to have a part in Hong Kong's prosperity.

The Peking-backed Ta Kung Pao's editorial was titled "Goodbye Britannia", having a go at the Democrats. It said that it was time for Hong Kong Chinese to look forward to the new era, and that if Hong Kong people wanted democracy and freedom, the first thing was to put colonial system to an end. It said the Democratic Party leaders might be temporary guests on Britannia, but eventually, they had to come back to land.

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