Meanwhile, back at the celebrations
Colleen Lee and Martin Cheung
About 40,000 people, undaunted by occasional light rain and sweltering heat, packed Hong Kong Stadium to attend a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the city's return to Chinese rule.
It was one of largest events of the many taking place across the city and included a midday parachute jump into the stadium by seven members of the People's Liberation Army's 8-1 Parachute Brigade.
Last night, hundreds of thousands flocked to Victoria Harbour to watch the fireworks, with 50,000 shells shooting into the sky in a 23-minute display costing HK$8 million. Highlights included fireworks in the shape of 'HK' and the Chinese characters for 15.
The four-hour show at the stadium was studded with Canto-pop stars and more than 1,000 local and mainland performers, but the paratroop jumpers stole the spotlight to thunderous applause by unveiling the national flag and those of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and the 8-1 Parachute Brigade in the sky.
The organiser, the Hong Kong Celebrations Association, said 11 paratroopers were originally going to jump but the performance had to be shortened and only seven took part due to strong air currents. One of the team missed the mat by about 30 metres because of the strong winds.
It was the second time the brigade has parachuted into the city. It last performed in 2007 to mark the 10th anniversary of the handover.
Spectators were in awe of the brigade's jump. 'I really liked the parachuting performance. We can see that the paratroopers are really well trained as they are not afraid of heights,' said Ng Wing-yan, 12, who admitted having an extreme fear of heights.
So Shing-yan, 50, called the performance 'quite good', but said he did not like the stadium design, which blocked his sight of the paratroopers in the air.
On the sidelines of the show, association executive director Cheng Yiu-tong called on people to back the SAR's third leader, Leung Chun-ying, as he began his five-year term.
'Hongkongers have the responsibility to support Leung's lawful governance,' said Cheng, adding that he did not think Leung's integrity was in jeopardy. Leung faces questions about his integrity in handling the controversy over illegal structures at his property on The Peak.
Cheng also said the new government needed to deal with livelihood issues such as scrapping the residency requirement for old-age allowance applicants and relaxing the criteria for receiving transport subsidies for low-income earners.
Michelle Xu, who migrated from the mainland in 2007, said she enjoyed the show very much.
She also said the city was on the receiving end of 'increased influence from the mainland', adding that the grip on freedom of the press was tightening.
On a lighter note, with a bunch of roses in hand, restaurant owner Mok King-hor got down on one knee - in front of 300 friends wearing T-shirts with the confident motif 'Married him' - and proposed to receptionist Tse Ngai-ping. With a tear in her eye, she said yes.
Early in the morning, Leung and his wife, Regina Tong Ching-yee, shook hands and chatted with people who gathered in Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai before officiating at the flag-raising ceremony, when the national and Hong Kong flags were run up the flag poles.
Hongkong Post also released a stamp sheetlet yesterday with the theme of the bauhinia, the floral emblem of the SAR, in commemoration of the anniversary.