The ceremony marking Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty begins at 11.30 pm on June 30 and will last up to 45 minutes, it was announced last night. A few hours later as dawn rises, the Chinese People's Liberation Army will begin its deployment in Hong Kong via Lok Ma Chau, added Xinhua (the New China News Agency). The celebrations kick off at 9 pm on June 30 when Victoria Harbour will be lit up with fireworks to say 'farewell to the old and welcome to the new'. Two massive parties will then be held at Victoria Park and Happy Valley Racecourse before the main event gets under way. More than 4,000 VIPs from Hong Kong and overseas will assemble in the new grand hall of the Convention and Exhibition Centre to witness history. 'As midnight is about to come, the British national flag and the Hong Kong flag will slowly lower,' Xinhua said. 'At midnight, the Chinese national flag and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region flag will be hoisted.' The whole ceremony would last about 30 to 45 minutes, it said. At 1 am, a grand reception to celebrate the birth of the SAR begins on the seventh floor of the Convention Centre's new annex. The first day of the SAR will be marked by celebrity-packed festivities and prayers, but the main event will be another display of fireworks in Victoria Harbour. Other events will include a gala performance of folk culture, a motor parade, a concert featuring musical works composed for the handover, a mass Buddhist prayer service and the freeing of 10,000 pigeons. Head of the handover ceremony office, Stephen Lam Shui-lun, said invitations for the overseas guests including 80 to 100 VIPs had already been issued. The list of guests from Hong Kong will be revealed soon and the invitations will be sent out shortly afterwards, he added. More than 8,300 journalists from Hong Kong, the mainland and overseas have already applied to cover the event.