Hong Kong celebrates first China National Day
October 1, 1997
Web posted at: 1:09 p.m. EDT (1709 GMT)
HONG KONG (CNN) -- Hong Kong saluted the motherland on
National Day, the most important of China's official
holidays, for the first time Wednesday. For Hong Kong
Chinese, the event stirred mixed emotions, from apprehension
to new identification.
National Day marks the anniversary of the 1949 founding of
the People's Republic of China. Chinese flags lined many of
Hong Kong's busy streets, erected by the local government and
And at an official flag-raising ceremony at Hong Kong's
harbor, the territory's new leader, Tung Chee-hwa, stood at
attention as a police band played the Chinese anthem, then
raised China's flag. Crowds of onlookers waved small Chinese
"I was a little moved," said one man who attended the
ceremony. "As someone who grew up in Hong Kong, there was
certainly a lack of nationalism. So that's why I brought the
kids, to watch the ceremony for themselves."
But a young woman counted herself among those in the former
British colony who found the new holiday strange. "I grew up
under the British rule. Suddenly, (the Chinese) came and
took over Hong Kong. I can't be patriotic overnight," she
Government and business leaders were among nearly 4,000
people who gathered in the harbor-front convention center for
a reception following the flag-raising ceremony.
The government also invited leaders of Hong Kong's Democratic
Party, which has often clashed with Beijing over the pace of
democratic reforms in Hong Kong.
Near the reception, a small group of protesters demanded that
China release political prisoners. Police stopped them about
a block away, and they sat on the sidewalk for about half an
hour before dispersing peacefully.
Perhaps the most surprising commemorative event was hosted by
the People's Liberation Army (PLA), based in Hong Kong, which
held an unprecedented open house in two of its barracks for
5,000 invited guests.
In an effort to shake its hard-line image, PLA soldiers
played ping-pong with some visitors, posed for photographs,
helped children board military vessels and performed in a
"They don't move, so I think they're well-disciplined," said
one young visitor of the soldiers standing at attention
throughout the ship.
Meanwhile, in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, huge crowds
gathered at dawn on Wednesday to catch a glimpse of the
flag-raising ceremony. The night before, top party leaders
celebrated on the square and looked toward China's future.
"The year 1998 is an important year to comprehensively carry
out the spirit of the 15th National Party Congress, and
implement the policies and guidelines set forth by the Party
Central Committee," Chinese Premier Li Peng said at the
Chinese leaders hope to spread the spirit of China throughout
Hong Kong, while maintaining the one country-two systems
Correspondent May Lee contributed to this report.