Thatcher helps HK bridge the gap

Looking pale, but still radiating her trademark imperious manner, Baroness Thatcher yesterday presided over Britain's last serious piece of flag-waving in Hong Kong before the Union flag is lowered for ever in two months.

Taking a break from the general election, the former prime minister, who in 1984 signed the Hong Kong people over to Chinese rule, was back to open the pounds 600m bridge which will link the territory's new island airport with the mainland.

Built in five years, the main span of the bridge is 1,377m -97m longer than San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, making it the world's largest road and rail suspension bridge. The total length of the two-section bridge is 2.14km.

Eyebrows were raised in Hong Kong when it became apparent that Lady Thatcher, rather than a Chinese or local official, would open the bridge. Yesterday's event was notable for the absence of Tung Chee-hwa, who will head the first post-colonial government.

He had been invited to join Governor Chris Patten on the platform but declined. British officials constantly insist they wish to avoid British triumphalism in Hong Kong. But the airport and associated projects are seen by China as partly designed for British aggrandisement.

This impression was hardly diminished by the arrival of four helicopters during the opening ceremony, with the lead aircraft trailing a giant Union flag.

British modesty was, however, manifest in a parade representing countries that had contributed to the building of the bridge. Many nations were driving British-made vehicles - Belgium was represented by a Rolls-Royce, Japan by a double-decker bus - but a vehicle representing Britain itself was inexplicably absent. China was represented by a minibus.

Lady Thatcher spoke of the bridge providing a good example of co-operation. In reality, the start of the project was delayed by acrimonious Sino-British wrangling over who would pay for it.

Once the go-ahead was given, the bridge was built both on time and within budget.

"From my own experience in government," said Lady Thatcher, "I know that these things do not invariably turn out like that ...except in Hong Kong."

Security was tight for the spectacular opening ceremony, crowned by a pounds 400,000 fireworks display.

Some 2,500 police officers were deployed to control the massive crowds which turned up for the fireworks, and also because the authorities feared that Lady Thatcher might be a target for a terrorist attack by the IRA.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk