Sense of occasion keeps them at it till dawn

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 1997, 12:00am

IT was nearly two hours past midnight. Most of the press had gone. The gallery was eerily empty.

From somewhere in the afterlife, Sir Hercules Robinson, the Legislative Council ghost, summoned the spirits of 24 other former governors, dressed them in their finest ostrich plumage and led them in grand procession across the ceiling.

Far below, Legco President Andrew Wong spoke his ritual benediction over the last bill. 'The ayes have it.' It was time for the Valedictory Motion. Legislators twittered. A frisson of excitement rippled the gubernatorial ectoplasm.

Nearly 50 hands went up as legislators indicated they wanted to speak. At seven minutes each, it was going to be a long night.

Leong Che-hung proposed that members say goodbye to Britain and hello to the Special Administrative Region.

It was a moment for jubilation, said Dr Leong . . . and a moment of sadness. Joy at the end of the colonial era. (Pshaw, spat Herc). Sadness that 27 out of 60 legislators had missed the through-train.

Speaker after speaker agreed. After all, Britain had given us the rule of law and a fine civil service, even if all the rest was the work of local Chinese.

Legislators joked at each other's expense and sometimes sang each other's praises.

Martin Lee kindly suggested Ip Kwok-him was enough to terrify even the Chief Secretary.

Mr Lee, said the Liberal Party's Edward Ho, was someone we could all respect. Oh, and Emily Lau's nickname was 'unguided missile', but Christine Loh homed in like a 'smart bomb'.

Leung Yiu-chung said Hong Kong was losing one colonial master and getting another.

And Tsang 'The Bull' Kin-shing said he would go back to being a streetfighter, a prospect to intimidate even Mr Ip.

On and on they joked and joshed, sang their own praises, blathered and waffled. But the sense of occasion kept them going until long after dawn. Finally, Dr Leong summed it all up.

Asked if Britain should give up Hong Kong, he recalled that Winston Churchill had said: 'Over my dead body.' Well, Winston was 'in the past'.

'Pshaw,' spat Herc for the last time. He was already floating towards the harbour to hitch a ride home on Britannia.

Suddenly, it was over. Legislators waved and hugged political opponents. Mr Tsang cried.

End of Empire; end of colonial legislature. Back next week.