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Hong Kong Marks China National Day

October 1, 1997

HONG KONG (AP) _ Hong Kong marked its first Chinese National Day as part of the motherland today with a solemn flag-raising ceremony before parades and fireworks in a celebration of patriotism that was unfamiliar to many.

Hong Kong, a British colony for 156 years until July 1, had never officially observed National Day, the anniversary of the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong’s new leader Tung Chee-hwa stood at attention with the territory’s other senior officials as a police band played the Chinese anthem and raised China’s gold-starred red flag beside Hong Kong’s famous harbor. China’s senior official in the territory, Ma Yuzhen, also attended.

Tung made no remarks. The simple, early morning ceremony was watched by a few hundred guests and flag-waving spectators.

Andy Ng, 43, a waiter, said he took his 11-year-old son to watch the ceremony to learn patriotism.

``I grew up learning Hong Kong’s flag was the Union Jack, and I resisted the Chinese flag before,″ said Ng. ``I took my son here to learn how to love his country and his national flag.″

Holding a small flag tightly in front of his chest, Ng said he was touched to see the flag flying. ``I now can speak out loudly that I am Chinese,″ he said.

The government said it now plans to raise the Chinese flag every Wednesday in the same place, along a promenade beside the new convention center.

Under British rule, Hong Kong people were not schooled in such patriotic rituals as flag-raising or anthem-singing, and some said they found the new holiday a bit strange _ especially the flags erected by the local government and civic groups along some busy streets.

``I grew up under the British rule. Suddenly, (the Chinese) came and took over Hong Kong. I can’t be patriotic overnight,″ said Pauline Cheng, a 23-year-old clerk. She said Tuesday she was surprised to find the footbridge that she walks to work every day lined with Chinese flags.

``I am so sick of the flags. They remind me of the June 4 crackdown,″ she said, referring to the 1989 Chinese army attack on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.

``Returning to Chinese rule doesn’t mean you will feel closely tied to China,″ 16-year-old Boris Yan, a student, said as he lingered with his classmates during their lunch break in Kwuntong district, in east Hong Kong.

Many people were treating the two-day break from work as they would any holiday, including visiting relatives in China. The government said 120,000 people crossed the border Tuesday.

Despite the lack of public enthusiasm, a host of official celebrations were planned. Carnivals, concerts, parades and ball games were being organized across the territory. Tung planned an afternoon cocktail reception for community leaders.

A radical pro-democracy organization, the April 5 Action group, intended to protest outside the reception to urge people not to forget the 1989 democracy movement in Beijing.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army opened two of their Hong Kong barracks to the public for the first time as a gesture to improve its public relations. Foreign media were barred.

The 4,700 Chinese troops are meant as a symbol of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong, but their arrival was one of the most sensitive issues during the handover because the army has been used to suppress dissent in the mainland.

Update hourly