Ten Years On - Key events in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2007, 12:00am


July At midnight on June 30, after 156 years of British rule, Hong Kong reverts to China. First light on July 1 finds 4,000 PLA troops crossing the border. The last governor, Chris Patten, bows out; the first chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Tung Chee-hwa, is sworn in

August Signal No 9 is hoisted for Typhoon Victor. Briton Tom Larmour perishes in the stormy sea while trying to save two students swept away in Stanley

Seven Hong Kong tourists die when their tour boat capsizes in 1.5-metre waves in Manila Bay on August 15. Forty-eight people were crammed onto the vessel, licensed to carry 17

An unmarked police car driven by detective Ngai Wai-kwong, 37, ploughs into a lunchtime crowd in Central, killing three people and injuring 10

September More than 14,000 finance ministers, bankers, officials, businessmen and journalists converge at the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund conference in Hong Kong on September 19

October In his maiden policy address, Tung Chee-hwa sets out housing, welfare and education policies

The government releases 278 Vietnamese boat people from High Island detention centre on October 14, after a legal ruling that it has no right to hold them

A woman creates a stir when she outbids top property developers with her HK$890 million offer for a 57,000 sq ft commercial site in Kowloon Bay. The woman then reveals she has no money

A wave of panic selling over fears for Hong Kong's currency stability sends the Hang Seng Index tumbling 1,200 points - more than 10.4 per cent - on October 23

November Unfounded rumours of cash-flow problems spark a run on the International Bank of Asia, as panicking depositors queue to withdraw their money

Miss Asia beauty pageant winner Janice Chu Yin-chun is stripped of her title when organisers learn that she's married - in violation of contest rules

December More than a million chickens are slaughtered in the city's no-nonsense bid to nip an alarming bird flu epidemic in the bud


January An ill-advised US$269 million loan to an Indonesian taxi firm drives Peregrine Holdings investment bank to collapse, sending shudders through an already unsteady stock market

February Financial secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen proposes cuts to salary and profit taxes in his economic stimulus plan

March Secretary for justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie decides not to prosecute Hong Kong Standard owner Sally Aw Sian over circulation fraud

May Democrats taste sweet revenge with a sweeping victory in the first post-1997 Legislative Council election after being ousted from the provisional legislature

June Amid panic of a recession, Tung Chee-hwa announces a four-part package to salvage the stricken economy, in particular the property sector

July Crowds witness the end of an era as the last planes land over their heads at Kai Tak. There are red faces all round the next day, July 6, when technical blunders mar the opening of Chek Lap Kok airport

August Breaking with policy, the government spends HK$120 billion on an energetic spree in the stock market, jerking the Hang Seng Index back up from a five-year low of 6,660

September Hongkongers make headlines around the world when thousands queue at McDonald's outlets every day for a month to collect free Snoopy dolls

October Observers hail a new era in Sino-European trade relations as British prime minister Tony Blair spends two days in Hong Kong after a visit to mainland China - in which deals worth US$800 million are signed

November A court sentences notorious criminal 'Big Spender' Cheung Tze-keung to death for serious crimes committed in Hong Kong. But the court is in Guangzhou, sparking fears of a loss of judicial independence

December Racing in Hong Kong gets an international black eye when several jockeys are arrested in a race-fixing racket busted by the ICAC. Former apprentice jockey Keith Kwok-ting is jailed for six months for taking up to HK$180,000 to fix races

Windsurfing Olympian and local golden girl Lee Lai-shan leads a parade of Hong Kong athletes to the victor's podium at the Asian Games in Bangkok. The other gold medalists are cycling ace Wong Kam-po, wushu artist Ng Siu-ching, the snooker team of Marco Fu Ka-chun, Chan Wai-tat and Chan Kwok-ming and tenpin bowler Hui Cheung-kwok


March Critics hammer the government for favouring tycoons when the Cyberport project is granted, without public tender, to a group headed by Richard Li Tzar-kai, son of tycoon Li Ka-shing

Elsie Leung survives a confidence vote in the legislature over her handling of the Sally Aw case

Female jockey Willy Kan Wai-yu, 20, dies in a fall at Sha Tin

April The gruesome 'Hello Kitty' killing shocks Hong Kong. After weeks of torture, Fan Man-yee, 23, is killed, dismembered and parts of her skull stuffed into a giant Hello Kitty doll. Two men are jailed for life and another for 18 years

May More than 10,000 civil servants take to the streets to oppose government proposals on civil service reform - including the privatisation of their departments

June Beijing overrules the Court of Final Appeal, fuelling debate about who's in charge: its ruling on mainlanders' right of abode in Hong Kong is set aside by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, acting at the request of the government, which feared a deluge of mainlanders moving to the city

August Trying to land at Chek Lap Kok in a typhoon is the most fundamental of the grave errors made by the pilot of a China Airlines flight: the crash, in which the plane is flipped onto its back, kills three and injures 200

September Signal 10 is raised for Typhoon York, which kills two and injures dozens

November Mickey is coming to town: the government announces plans to build a Disneyland theme park at Penny's Bay

December Critics see 'a great leap backward for democracy' when it is announced that the two elected municipal councils will be scrapped from January 1


January Construction is halted on two housing blocks in Sha Tin after sub-standard piling rods are discovered. News of the scandal spreads, making many families fear for the safety of their public-housing homes.

February Dotcom madness strikes when a public offering by internet company tom.com, owned by tycoon Li Ka-shing, sparks a speculative frenzy, with hundreds queuing to sign up

June Fearing a challenge to their jobs, more than 6,000 teachers protest at plans for benchmark tests for English and Putonghua teachers

June After months of scandal over the defective piling in Sha Tin, a high-profile victim is claimed: Housing Authority chairwoman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming steps down to take responsibility. Soon after, she and director of housing Tony Miller lose a vote of confidence in the Legislative Council

June Critics question his integrity when Tung Chee-hwa reveals a key housing target of 85,000 new flats a year has been dropped - back in 1999, without anyone knowing

July As opinion surveys track the slide in Tung Chee-hwa's popularity and his government's credibility, he is accused of interfering with University of Hong Kong opinion polls. An independent inquiry two months later finds vice-chancellor Cheng Yiu-chung and his deputy tried to stop the polls. Both resign

August Autistic 15-year-old Yu Man-hon, who has the mental age of a two-year-old and no money, slips across the Lo Wu border into the mainland. Despite intensive searches, he was not found

August Right-of-abode protesters are enraged when they lose legal challenges to stay in Hong Kong. They ignite thinner in Wan Chai's Immigration Tower, and one immigration officer and an abode seeker die from their burns. Seven protesters are later jailed for manslaughter

September The Democratic Party slips in the second Legco election, while the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong grows. Its vice-chairman, Gary Cheng Kai-nam, wins a seat but gives it up and quits politics due to controversy over his business activities


January Gary Cheng is arrested by the ICAC and later charged with accepting an advantage as a public servant and misconduct in public office

Chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang says she will resign for 'personal reasons' by April - 14 months earlier than expected. Donald Tsang is named to succeed her

July Cathay Pacific sacks 49 pilots in one day, sparking acrimony between staff and the airline. Employees take industrial action to support the '49ers'

August Socialite Pamela Pak Wan-kam begins two months in jail for tax evasion

September A 10-month freeze on Home Ownership Scheme flat sales is revealed on September 3. The next day, premier Zhu Rongji says Hong Kong 'cannot always discuss without making decisions, and make decisions without execution'

December Tung Chee-hwa declares he will seek re-election

Gary Cheng is sentenced to 18 months in prison


February Tung Chee-hwa is elected uncontested with 714 nominations from the 800-member Election Committee

March Financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung proposes a 4.75 per cent pay cut for civil servants as part of his plan to eliminate the deficit

April The Executive Council supports a ministerial accountability system to begin in Tung Chee-hwa's second term

May Twenty minutes after taking off from Taiwan, a China Airlines jet crashes on its way to Hong Kong. All 225 on board perish

July Tung Chee-hwa and his new 'accountability' team are sworn in on July 1 at a ceremony led by president Jiang Zemin. Six days later, 50,000 civil servants join an unprecedented rally against pay cuts. But the cut becomes law on July 11, to take effect in October

September A long-awaited national security bill, fronted by security secretary Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, is published for consultation. It sparks rallies from supporters and opponents

October Thousands of grieving fans line the streets to pay their respects when the 'Godfather' of Hong Hong pop music, Roman Tam Pak-sin, 57, dies of liver cancer


March A fearsome threat arrives: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Though Sars is carried in by a doctor from Guangdong staying at the Metropole Hotel in mid-February, its potential for harm takes weeks to be realised, by which time scores of people are infected in Hong Kong and around the world. Only on March 16 does the World Health Organisation publicly brand Hong Kong a Sars-infected area. Panic is barely concealed, and the city dons face masks, holiday camps become quarantine zones, health workers are wrapped in biological protection suits and whole housing blocks are sealed off, most famously at Amoy Gardens, Kowloon, where hundreds are placed under quarantine. By the end of the 100 days that Sars holds a grip on Hong Kong, 1,755 people have been infected and 299 have died. The dead include four doctors, one nurse, one ward attendant and two health-care assistants who contract the disease while on the frontline at work

May In the aftermath of Sars, the government launches a major cleanup campaign - the biggest since Clean Hong Kong in the early 1970s. People caught littering, spitting, posting bills or letting their dogs foul in public will be heavily fined. Meanwhile, plans are drawn up to prepare for any return of the virus, including an alarm system at hospitals and a new Centre for Health Protection

April Canto-pop star Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing writes a suicide note and leaps to his death from the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Central

June A free-trade deal, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa), is signed with Beijing

July Half a million people turn out on July 1 to march from Victoria Park to the Central Government Office to protest against a list of grievances, primarily the handling of national security legislation. The government scraps the bill a week later and, on July 16, announces Regina Ip's resignation. Two hours later, the government announces that financial secretary Antony Leung will quit, too; he was plagued by controversy after buying a luxury Lexus car just before raising the tax on car registration

A double-decker bus plunges 50 metres off a Tuen Mun Road flyover, killing 21 commuters

Mainland travellers are allowed to visit Hong Kong on individual tourist visas. Previously, they could only travel in tour groups

October The HK$100 million Harbour Fest concerts are overshadowed by controversies, bad publicity and poor ticket sales. A government inquiry into the handling of the event is announced in November

Rockit, Hong Kong's first annual weekend-long outdoor rock festival, is launched

December Canto-pop queen Anita Mui Yim-fong dies of cervical cancer, raising awareness of the disease in the city. She gave her farewell concert just a month earlier


January The Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement - Cepa - comes into effect

April The NPC Standing Committee rules out direct elections for chief executive in 2007 and all legislators in 2008

Li Pak-sum, 44, runs amok in his Tin Shui Wai home, stabbing to death his wife, Kim Shuk-ying, and her two daughters, aged five and six. Fearing violence hours earlier, Kim seeks help from police, but in vain. The case prompts changes to how police deal with domestic abuse

June The elusive crocodile that has been lurking in Yuen Long's San Pui River is finally caught, after seven months of attempts that make headlines worldwide. Nicknamed Pui Pui, the croc gets a permanent home in the newly opened Wetlands Park in 2006

July Secretary for health, welfare and food Yeoh Eng-kiong and Hospital Authority chairman Leong Che-hung resign following publication of the Sars inquiry report. York Chow Yat-ngok takes over as health secretary in October

September Voter turnout for the Legco election hits a record 55 per cent. Democrats, one of whom is veteran social justice campaigner 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, take 25 out of 60 seats.

December Giving in to a vigorous public outcry, developers drop their plans to demolish the mothballed Hunghom Peninsula housing estate before any of its flats have ever been sold or occupied

A lawsuit by a public-housing tenant, Lo Siu-lan, embarrassingly derails the public listing of The Link Reit, the Housing Authority's shopping malls and car parks spin-off


January Tung Chee-hwa delivers his 'mea culpa' policy address on January 12, seen as a response to Beijing's concern at the inadequacies of his government

March Tung Chee-hwa resigns on March 10 and Donald Tsang becomes the acting chief executive

The 'milkshake murder' trial begins: Hong Kong is engrossed in the trial of Nancy Kissel, who is convicted of drugging the drink of her wealthy husband, a Merrill Lynch banker, then bludgeoning him to death, rolling his body in a carpet and hiring movers to remove it from their flat. She gets life in prison

Donald Tsang is 'elected' on June 16 to serve out the remainder of Tung Chee-hwa's term after a potential rival, Democrat Lee Wing-tat, gets too few nominations to run against him. His election campaign is notable for his public appearances - including a game of table-tennis at the Society for the Blind

September Hong Kong Disneyland is officially opened by Vice-President Zeng Qinghong

Hong Kong and Guangdong agree on regional air-quality management to cut pollution, and on a Pearl River Delta air-quality index

October In his first policy address, Donald Tsang sets out plans for major reforms to government and plans for a new HQ at the Tamar site in Admiralty. Legco approves the project six months later

Electoral reform is in the air, and a proposal called the 'district council model' is published

on October 19, but lawmakers veto it on

December 21

December Former chief secretary Anson Chan joins a pro-democracy rally on December 4, stirring up media speculation about her political plans

The World Trade Organisation meetings are plagued by violence. Rioting injures 70 police and protesters on December 18

On Boxing Day, the world watches in horror as the Asian tsunami disaster unfolds. Forty Hongkongers are among the estimated 230,000 dead


March After widespread criticism, the government drops its unpopular, single-developer model for the giant West Kowloon Cultural District. A 65-member committee is set to rethink the whole scheme from scratch

The Civic Party is inaugurated, comprising members of the Article 45 Concern Group

Constable Tsang Kwok-hang, 34, is killed and fellow officer Sin Ka-keung is wounded in a shoot-out in a Tsim Sha Tsui underpass. Their assailant is another constable, 36-year-old Tsui Po-ko, who is killed in the fracas. His motive for the attack remains a mystery

Public consultation begins on controversial proposals for a goods and services tax

August Three masked men attack and badly beat Democratic Party vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan with baseball bats in a fast-food restaurant in Central

September Anson Chan puts an end to speculation, saying she won't contest the chief executive election. She sets up a group to study constitutional reform. Its first report is published in March 2007

October Last gasp! Hong Kong passes a law banning smoking in all indoor public places

November Former health director Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun is elected director-general of the World Health Organisation

December Finally, Hong Kong is to see a contested chief executive election: pro-democratic candidates win 134 seats in the Election Committee sub-sector elections - enough to propel Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Civiv Party into the ring against Donald Tsang

The government withdraws its GST proposals after widespread criticism

An era ends as the Star Ferry in Central is relocated to a new pier to make way for land reclamation. Protesters fighting to save the clock tower at the 1950s pier clash with police


January Butt out! The smoking ban comes into force on January 1

February Donald Tsang declares he'll seek re-election, promising salaries and profits tax cuts in the next five years

The financial secretary, Henry Tang Ying-yen, delivers an unexpected HK$20 billion package of tax giveaways in his fourth budget

March Surprising no one, Donald Tsang is the runaway winner in the third chief executive election on March 25, defeating Alan Leong by 649 votes to 123

April Asia's richest woman, the flamboyant Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum, dies of cancer, sparking a legal battle over her will. She had fought her father-in-law for years over her husband Teddy Wang Teh-huei's will after his kidnap and disappearance in 1990

A sensational 37-day inquest - sparked by the Tsim Sha Tsui police shootings in 2006 - into the deaths of two policemen and a security guard over a period of five years ends with a jury finding that constable Tsui Po-ko had unlawfully killed all three