Hong Kong people are so obsessed with the imminent reunification with China that many have become oblivious to other people's concerns about July 1, 1997. Our myopic world view is set to worsen, in the final year before the Chinese takeover. Capitalist Hong Kong's reunification with communist China is, of course, duly recognised by the local and international media as the most significant historic event scheduled before the end of this millennium. Time, The Economist, Asiaweek, Asia Inc and Readers' Digest are just a few of the many reputable publications which have cover stories focused on Hong Kong's final 12-month run-up to 1997. However, many of us are so engrossed by the imminent change of sovereignty that we have forgotten that others might have concerns closer to home on their agenda. It may be hard to accept, for instance, that the average British national might have been more interested in Princess Diana turning 35 yesterday, than the start of the one-year countdown to their withdrawal from their last notable colony. Likewise, in a year's time, some Filipinos might prefer to focus on their former first lady. Which pair of high heels Imelda Marcos picks for her 67th birthday party on July 1, 1997, could be more fun than the change of flags for a mere 1,060 square kilometres on the map. At a global level, that day next year will be a landmark for world free trade, when many nations will honour their obligations made under the Uruguay Round of trade talks. New Zealand will eliminate all tariffs on pharmaceuticals by July 1, 1997. Further reductions of up to 50 per cent in import taxes for other products are planned from July 1, 1997 to July 1, 2000. The Uruguay agreement will also see South Korea opening its frozen chicken and pork market by July 1, 1997. Farmers in both China and Taiwan are among those who stand to benefit from the lifting of the import quotas. On the political front, next July 1, ministers from various European countries will be engaged in yet another conference in Brussels to hammer out details about controls and measures with a view to binding the various countries on the continent closer together. Hong Kong is not alone in severing the colonial ties with Britain on July 1. Next July 1, 30 million Canadians will commemorate their 130th independence day. The same day, 18 million Ghanaians in West Africa will celebrate the founding of their republic in 1960. In East Africa, British and Italian Somaliland were merged into the self-governing Somali Republic on July 1, 1960. Surinam in Latin America also shares the same Freedom Day with Somalia, while Burundi and its neighbour, Rwanda, both gained independence from Belgium on July 1, 1962. For feminists with an acute sense of history, July 1 may be remembered as the day the first law banning polygamy was enacted by the American Congress in 1862. Going back to the future, to really broaden our vision of July, 1997, we could set our sights on Mars - 769 million kilometres from the sun. The first expedition to Mars was launched 20 years ago when two National Aeronautics and Space Administration Viking craft searched unsuccessfully for evidence of life on the planet. A new Mars exploration programme is now under way. The Americans are ambitiously planning two small robotic missions to Mars every 26 months until the year 2005. The first robotic rover, named Sojourner, will be carried by the spacecraft Pathfinder. The rover, the size of a computer monitor, will land on Mars and scan its surface at a speed of one centimetre per second. Sojourner is scheduled to land on Mars in a year from now. Should the landing take place on July 1 next year, the event will coincide with the 221st anniversary of the United States' first vote on the Declaration of Independence. But, perhaps the Americans would rather wait until Independence Day itself, on July 4, 1997, for the historic occasion, rather than July 1, the date haunting Hong Kong people.