July 1 1997 marked the official transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain to China. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration gave rise to the event as then-Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed that the territory would be handed back to Beijing. A ceremony was held at a new wing of Wan Chai’s Exhibition Centre on June 30. HKFP looks back on the Handover period…

handover hong kong britain
A photo dated 19 December, 1984 shows Chinese Premier of the People’s Republic of China Zhao Ziyang (R, first row) and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (L, first row) in Beijing during the signing ceremony of the Joint Delcaration. Photo: Pierre Antoine-Donnet/AFP.
chris patten hong kong
Britain’s Prince Charles (L) shares a laugh with Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten (R) prior to a “Beat the Retreat” police ceremony at Government House in Hong Kong, 28 June 1997. Photo: Tommy Cheng/AFP.
martin lee hong kong handover
Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee, L, shakes hands with legislator Cheng Yiu-tong after the last session under British rule of the Hong Kong Legislative Council Saturday, 28 June. The council, the territory’s first elected legislature, is to be disbanded and replaced by China’s self-selected body after the handover. Photo: AFP/Pool/Vincent Yu.
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A British woman holds up a Union Jack flag while partying with friends in the Lan Kwai Fong entertainment area of Hong Kong, 29 June 1997. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP.
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British solders participate in the British Military Farewell Ceremony at the HMS Tamar military base in Hong Kong, 30 June 1997, marking the handover of Hong Kong Photo: Romeo Gacad/AFP.
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Soldiers of the Hong Kong Garrison People’s Liberation Army (PLA) clap during the farewell ceremony attended by Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Liu Huaqing at Tong Le Camp in Shenzhen, 30 June 1997, the day they prepare to enter Hong Kong at midnight as China assumes sovereignty of the territory after 156 years of British rule. Photo: Manuel Ceneta/AFP.
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Workers prepare to take down a Royal Crest at a Hong Kong’s Government office 30 June, 1997. Chris Patten, the 28th and last governor of Hong Kong left his official residence with just a few hours remaining of British sovereignty over the territory. Photo: Xinhua/AFP/Handout.
hong kong handover
Chinese border guards (R) at the Wen Jingdu border post are lined up as convoys of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) trucks and armoured vehicles enter the border crossing towards Hong Kong, early on 1 July, 1997. Some 4,000 PLA troops began pouring into Hong Kong at dawn in the first hours after the territory returned to Chinese rule. Photo: Manuel Ceneta/AFP.
hong kong handover to china britain
This file photo dated 01 July, 1997 shows a Chinese soldier (2nd L) holding the national flag prior to its raising as the British military march at right during the handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, marking the end of 156 years of British colonial rule over the territory. Photo: Paul Lakatos/AFP.
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Sponsored items given to the media in 1997. Photo: GovHK.
Gordon Wu
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales dubs Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) during an investiture ceremony at Government House in the morning of June 29, 1997. File Photo: GovHK.
tung chee hwa li peng
Tung Chee-hwa (L) raises his hand as he takes an oath opposite Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng during his swearing in ceremony as Hong Kong’s new and first chief executive, on 1 July 1997. The 60-year-old shipping magnate delivered a speech that laid stress on the greatness of the moment but tiptoed away from the question of public representation in the Provisional Legislature. Photo: Yoshikasu Tsuno/AFP.
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Britain’s Prince of Wales (C) shows the way to Chinese President Jiang Zemin as British Prime Minister Tony Blair follows (R) at the end of the ceremony marking the handover of Hong Kong to China Tuesday July 1, 1997. Photo: Dylan Martinez/AFP Pool.
1997 handover
Photo: GovHK.
tung chee wah inauguration 1997
Photo: GovHK.
1997 handover
Photo: GovHK.
hong kong uk handover
One year on: Workers hang a decorations reading “Celebrating the First Anniversary of the Return of Hong Kong to the Motherland” on 22 June, 1998, on a Hong Kong office building. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP.
handover 1997 chris patten
Photo: GovHK.
handover 1997 chris patten
Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last governor, in 1997. Photo: GovHK.

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Hong Kong Free Press

Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.