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HK rings in year of date with destiny

HONG KONG, Jan. 1 -- Hong Kong is welcoming the biggest year in its history with parties and other standard celebrations but smaller, more politically oriented events provide reminders of China's imminent takeover. Hong Kong's first post-colonial leader, Tung Chee-hwa, toasted local residents as the special guest at a New Year cocktail party hosted by the Association for the Celebration of Reunification of Hong Kong with China.

He said, 'This first day of 1997. Yet this New Year's Day is not the same as others in the past because we are not just kicking off a new year but a new era. Upon our return to China, it will be a new age in which the motherland has taken a big step forward in its goal of full unification.' The reception's hosts included many influential pro-China power brokers who backed Tung during his campaign for chief executive. The party also included members of the controversial provisional legislature that Beijing plans to install in place of Hong Kong's sitting 60-member body. Dozens of demonstrators Wednesday marched from the Legislative Council to China's de-facto embassy, the Xinhua news agency. The marchers reiterated their calls for Beijing to make good on its promise of autonomy for Hong Kong after Britain pulls out June 30. Elsewhere, city workers were cleaning up after 35,000 partygoers thronged the downtown nightclub district the night before. ---

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Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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