City of change: Hong Kong marks 25th anniversary of handover

From a British colony to Chinese territory, Hong Kong has undergone a seismic shift politically and socially under Beijing's direction since its handover to China on July 1, 1997. The Straits Times takes a look at how things have changed.

Hong Kong at 25-year mark after handover: Time for a reboot?

PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Twenty-five years after Hong Kong's return to China, schoolchildren learn Mandarin in classrooms, China's top firms are listed on the city's stock exchange, and one of Hong Kong's biggest media moguls sits in prison.

Under the "one country, two systems" policy, the city is promised 50 years of autonomy on most matters except defence and foreign affairs.

The former British colony is to have rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, unseen in mainland China. Hong Kong has its own judiciary based on Common Law, a legislature and Cantonese - a lingua franca different from that on the mainland.

Yet, halfway through the five decades, a sweeping national security law and changes in the electoral system have meant shrinking room for dissent and fewer alternative voices in the public sphere, along with signs of the mainland's growing influence.

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Hong Kongers who returned after 1997 handover now want to leave

PHOTO: COURTESY OF TONY LIAW

Communications specialist Tony Liaw left Hong Kong as a teenager in the mid-1990s, spending his formative years in Vancouver, Canada.

He only returned to the city in 2010 with his wife, who was drawn to its employment opportunities.

"Vancouver is pretty much a retirement town, so it's definitely not as vibrant and for my wife, who worked as an accountant, Hong Kong offered more opportunities to climb the corporate ladder," Mr Liaw, 47, told The Straits Times.

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New arrivals are drawn to different ideals from those who left

ST PHOTO: MAGDALENE FUNG

When Singaporean Low Lee Kiang decided last year to uproot his life in the Lion City and give up his 20-year career in the finance industry to try something different in Hong Kong, the people around him were sceptical about his big move.

"This was already in mid-2020, but the social unrest in Hong Kong was still the topmost concern of my family and friends," said Mr Low, referring to the massive pro-democracy protests in 2019 that often brought parts of the city to a standstill.

He took the plunge anyway, joining the Hong Kong Jockey Club - an industry he had no prior knowledge of - as an operations manager in July last year.

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3 key priorities for Hong Kong's new leader John Lee

PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr John Lee, Hong Kong's former security chief, will be sworn in as Chief Executive on Friday (July 1), as the city marks 25 years of Chinese rule in the former British colony. 

Here are three areas of priority for Mr Lee, who takes over the reins from Mrs Carrie Lam.

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Key events that have shaped Hong Kong since the 1997 handover

PHOTO: REUTERS

Hong Kong on Friday (July 1) celebrates the 25th anniversary of its return to China from British colonial administration. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a two-day visit in Hong Kong to mark the occasion - his first trip to the territory since 2017. 

On Thursday, Mr Xi gave a short speech upon his arrival, saying that the city has "risen from the ashes" following the "winds and rains" of recent years. 

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