HONG KONG, June 1 -- It's not like they didn't have time to prepare. The official hoopla surrounding Britain's surrender of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China has been in the making for more than a decade. But the schedule and guest list for the handover ceremony are still grist of fevered negotiations inside the Joint Liaison Group, which tries to bridge the gaping differences between the successive sovereigns. So far Prince Charles is a definite, Chinese President Jiang Zemin ('JEE-ang zee-min') is a maybe and Tibet's Dalai Lama ('DAH'-lie LAH'-muh') will most certainly not receive an invitation. Representatives from virtually every country on the planet, however, except Taiwan, will attend the historic party, along with some 8,000 journalists who have registered with authorities. While no official program has been released, here are the central events for June 30 and July 1:
-- Governor Chris Patten, the last in a line of British colonial leaders will leave Government House, his official residence, at 4:15 p. m., after which he will attend a farewell ceremony attended by some 10, 000 invited guests. -- At 8 p.m., Victoria Harbor will erupt in a fireworks extravaganza, sponsored by the departing British administration. -- At 9 p.m., 4,000-thousand invited guests will feast at a banquet served at the mammoth new wing of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. -- The handover ceremony begins precisely at 11 p.m., starting with the lowering of the Union Jack and Hong Kong flags and followed by the raising of the Chinese flag and Hong Kong's new flag at midnight.
-- Patten and Prince Charles will then board the royal yacht Britannia and begin their journey home, formally ending 156 years of British rule in Hong Kong. -- At 1 a.m., Tung Chee-hwa will take the official oath of office as chief executive of Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. -- Over the course of the morning, troops from the People's Liberation Army will take up their positions in Hong Kong, while Hong Kong's Democratic Party will hold a protest rally at the Legislative Council, from where its 29 members have been evicted. An even bigger fireworks display will light up the harbor, this time underwritten by the new Hong Kong government and a slew of corporate sponsors. ---
Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---