Schedule of Events

schedule

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Wanchai.

JEFFREY AARONSON-NETWORK ASPEN

Countdown: 3, 2, 1 ... Party! Sure, there are still plenty of questions to sort out concerning Hong Kong's transition. Will future elections be free? Can China stem the flow of mainland immigrants? Will journalists be allowed to report objectively? But first things first. Before Hong Kong can get on with the rest of its life, there is the matter of the handover celebration.

On or about July 1, more than one million visitors will be on hand to experience the moment, and they'll be ready to boogie. A number of hotels and clubs will hold big bashes-some private, others open to anyone with big bucks to spare. They could go on for quite a while: the five days from June 28 to July 2 are public holidays in Hong Kong this year.

As we went to press, details about official handover-related doings remained somewhat sketchy. It still wasn't clear, for example, exactly what object or document Britain's representatives-Prince Charles is scheduled to preside-might symbolically hand over to the Chinese to mark the transition. Nonetheless, enough is known to present the following very unofficial guide to the festivities:

From Mid-June

Golden Dragon, a 3,050-m. dragon will be constructed out of lights; along Salisbury Road and Nathan Road, Tsimshatsui.

June 29

Carnival to Celebrate Developments in the New Territories, time to be announced. Games, performances, marching bands; Sha Tin Town Hall.

June 29-30

Asian Extravaganza, time to be announced. A two-day event to involve minorities and foreign domestic helpers in the celebrations, featuring a carnival, dancing and other events; Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui.

June 30

Countdown Celebration Ball, 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Admission is free for festivities that will include karaoke music; Lung Sum Ave., North Point.

THE HANDOVER

These ceremonies, beginning June 30, will mostly be closed to the public, so you'll need guanxi (connections) to get on the restricted list of invitees and the press.

Governor's Departure, 4:15 p.m. Patten will leave Government House for the last time. He and his family will be driven three times around the official residence's circular driveway. According to local belief, it's a good-luck gesture, meant to ensure that the departing person will return again.

Farewell ceremony for the British administration, 6 p.m. This will involve a "colorful mix of civilian and military elements" and will be attended by 10,000 invited guests; HMS Tamar, Harcourt Road, Central.

Most of Britain's last 300 soldiers leave by ferry for Kai Tak Airport, 7:30 p.m, flying out shortly before midnight. Some will remain as honor guard for midnight change of flags.

Fireworks display, 8 p.m. A one-hour pyrotechnic extravaganza over Victoria Harbor, sponsored by the departing administration.

Reception banquet, 9 p.m. A meal for 4,000 invited guests, also sponsored by the departing government; Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Wanchai.

Variety show, 10 p.m. Performances by artists and youth groups to accompany the official handover events; HMS Tamar.

Handover ceremony, 11 p.m. This will include the lowering of the Union Jack and Hong Kong flags and the raising of the Chinese banner and Hong Kong's new flag. The televised event will be attended by 4,000 invitees, and will include speeches and military honor guards from both sides; Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.

Departure, 12 midnight. Governor Patten and Prince Charles will board the royal yacht Britannia at East Tamar to begin their journey home, formally ending 156 years of British rule in Hong Kong.

July 1

Seconds after midnight the Chinese national anthem, "March of the Volunteers," plays and China's flag and new flag of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region raised. Prince Charles and British governor and military commander board the royal yacht Britannia and depart Hong Kong.

Incoming government, legislators, high court judges are sworn in at Convention Center ceremony for 4,400 guests, 1:30-2:15 a.m.

Remaining British personnel fly out 2-3 a.m.

New government holds celebration at Convention Center, 10-11:30 a.m. Speeches by new Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and a Chinese leader. Concert, sound-and-light show.

Ten thousand homing pigeons released at stadium in New Territories to fly to different provinces in China, 11:30 a.m.

Cocktail party for 5,000 guests at Convention Center, 4-5 p.m.

Buddhist Gathering for the Celebration of the Unification of Hong Kong with China, 4-8 p.m. Hong Kong Stadium, Causeway Bay.

Fireworks display, 9-10 p.m. A one-hour show over Victoria Harbor, sponsored by the Hong Kong-Guangdong Community Organization for the Celebration of the Return of Hong Kong to China.

July 1-2

"My Motherland," time to be announced. A symphony concert at Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wanchai.

July 2

Cantonese Opera, time to be announced. A performance at the Hong Kong Cultural Center Grand Theater, Tsimshatsui.

AP Contributed to this report.