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
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us