South China Morning Post / Alamy Stock Photo

25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China

Explore historic images from Hong Kong’s handover in 1997

On 1 July, 1997, the then Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten, shed a tear as he waved goodbye to 156 years of Hong Kong under British colonial rule.

Let’s be honest, it wasn’t exactly a happy occasion when Hong Kong became a British colony. Then again, it rarely is when you’re subjected to colonial rule.

But over a century and a half later, the ties between Hong Kong and the UK had become so ingrained that it’s hard not to spot British influence around every corner of Hong Kong. Patten summarised it well when he said Hong Kong is a “Chinese city…with British characteristics.”

Emotions ran high during the handover. But politics was still the main dish of the day. Jiang Zemin, the first head of state of China to visit Hong Kong, emphasised the importance of Basic Law (which serves as Hong Kong’s constitution), and how central government “will not and should not be allowed to intervene in matters that ought to be handled by the Hong Kong SAR.”

Basic Law is designed to safeguard the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and also protects the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents. It also establishes the “one country, two systems” that underpins the democratic structures you see in Hong Kong; a system that’s due to expire in 2047.

That’s why this anniversary is so important. It marks the halfway point. The future of Hong Kong looks hazy for now, but the rest of the world will be watching eagerly as we slowly find out what that future will look like.

The images below show the historic moment that Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule was formalised with the Prince of Wales and Tony Blair in attendance. You can explore all the images from that day in this lightbox.

Matt Yau

Matt started off as a live music photographer covering up-and-coming bands in Brighton, and since then has become enamoured by the power of pictures. With a penchant for storytelling, he's on a mission to uncover unique images from the Alamy library and tell the story behind them.

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