Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 08:15
225,000 join in celebration of HKSAR anniversary
By Kahon Chan, Andrea Deng and Ming Yeung in Hong Kong

225,000 join in celebration of HKSAR anniversary
Supporters of the Hong Kong government attend a ceremony to mark the 16th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR organized by Hong Kong Celebrations Association outside the government headquarters on Monday afternoon. (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

Festive mood at celebrations despite storm 

About 225,000 people braved stormy weather on Monday to attend city-wide events marking the 16th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR.

The festive activities, including carnivals, folk dancing and open-air concerts, were held at nearly 40 locations across 18 districts. Shoppers also enjoyed special discounts of up to 50 percent at more than 1,000 shops and restaurants as part of the celebrations, while the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held open days at its two barracks in the New Territories and the PLA naval base on Stonecutters Island, attracting thousands of people.

The day began with a solemn flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai at 8 am as helicopters from the city’s disciplined services mounted a fly-past and vessels took part in a parade in Victoria Harbour.

The ceremony was attended by Tung Chee-hwa, former chief executive and vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; Chief Executive (CE) Leung Chun-ying; Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR, Zhang Xiaoming, and about 2,500 other dignitaries.

It was immediately followed by an official reception at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Most of the activities, organized by the Hong Kong Celebrations Association (HKCA), went ahead in the afternoon despite the hoisting of the No 3 strong wind signal with the approach of tropical storm Rumbia. They included variety shows, stall games and free health checks for members of the public.

The highlight was the Grand Carnival at Tamar Park, Admiralty, which was attended by the CE, Zhang and senior Hong Kong government officials.

Executive Councilor Cheng Yiu-tong, who also chairs the HKCA, led the crowd in belting out a birthday song for the HKSAR. He said the city had been able to “ride out all the storms” in the past 16 years due to the efforts of its three chief executives since 1997.

“Support CY! Support CY!” the crowd shouted, holding their hands together to signify continued support for the government. They also sang Below the Lion Rock, symbolizing the resilience and spirit of Hong Kong people in pursuing their dreams.

Following the launching ceremony, 20,000 bags, each containing food and essential products, as well as a HK$50 supermarket voucher, were distributed across the city. At Wong Tai Sin, Wong, a 74-year-old lady, said she was glad to receive a free bag of food without having to queue up. She hopes the government could do more to help the elderly.

The weather deteriorated after 2 pm, forcing many outdoor events to end early. But the high spirits of the people were not dampened.

Lo Wai-ki, 7, showed his grandmother a bag of seven plush toys he had won at games at the Tamar Park carnival. “I hope I could come again next year,” he said.

Ah Wai, who manned one of the game booths at another carnival at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai, told China Daily she preferred to help out at the carnival than to take part in street demonstrations.

“They (the marchers) are too radical. I would like to see residents enjoying games and having fun rather than generating conflicts,” he said.

At the Sha Tin Town Hall, thousands of people waved mini national flags and cheered at the playing of the national anthem, while a youth acrobatic troupe from Guangzhou gave a spectacular performance.

Ho, a Sha Tin resident, took her 11-year-old son to the function to enable him to experience the joy. “There’s too much negative energy in society nowadays. I don’t want him to grow up hating the government. I want him to think about what can be done to improve the situation,” she said.

Speaking at the Sha Tin event, Heung Yee Kuk Vice-Chairman Cheung Hok-ming denounced the “Occupy Central” movement, warning such a campaign would undermine the governance of the administration.

 The “Occupy Central” campaign was also condemned at an open-air rally at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui organized by the Voice of Loving Hong Kong, which plans to rally 10,000 residents to confront the movement.

 Siu, a resident, said the government’s performance has nothing to do with the symbolic significance of the reunification anniversary.

 “I’m not saying that everything he (CY Leung) is doing is right,” he told Cable TV. “Reunification is a day of reckoning. It’s certainly something to celebrate.”

 More than 1,000 supermarkets, restaurants and retailers offered discounts as part of the celebrations. Andy Lam took the advantage to buy a new laptop for his high-school son. “I’m not rich, so I’m happy I could buy a laptop for HK$1,000 less,” he said.

 Grandco Restaurant Group offered a 50 percent discount for afternoon tea-goers. Its deputy managing director Wong Ho-sing said while the public could join in the celebrations, his restaurant also had 20 percent more customers than usual.

Contact the writers at kahon@chinadailyhk.com

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