BEIJING, June 30 -- Beijing has kicked off a dusk-to-dawn Hong Kong handover extravaganza with a rare display of fireworks backed by booming patriotic music. A hand-picked group of some 100,000 people have gathered in Tiananmen Square for the party, where they will count down the last seconds of British colonial rule and welcome in the territory's first dawn under a communist flag.
Two huge stages featuring folk dancing and singing have many in the crowd on their feet, clearly satisfied with the pomp and circumstance surrounding the historic event. The ceremony will reach its peak at the stroke of midnight on July 1 with a second fireworks show marking the end of 156 years of British control over Hong Kong. A third and final series of fireworks are scheduled just hours later, when the new China-backed legislature and chief executive of Hong Kong are sworn into office by President Jiang Zemin ('Jeeang Seh-minh'). Although the Tiananmen Square ceremony will end at dawn, Beijing residents will be treated to another gala party on Tuesday to be attended by President Jiang and other top leaders who were in Hong Kong for the handover. ---
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