Bleary-eyed schoolchildren and an army of tourists descended on the Wan Chai waterfront to take their places in a sea of sunhats, cameras and patriotic red. 'It's a very happy day, my country's 50th birthday,' said engineer Choi Wai-kong, who staked out his place near the front at 6am for the flag-raising two hours later. More than 1,500 people packed the public viewing area as the police band warmed up behind the Convention Centre. An elderly woman ignored the gathering throng and gazed across the harbour while she did her morning tai chi exercises. Teacher Peter Deng Chu-ping, on holiday from Dongguan in Guangdong, said he came out to show his pride at the great strides China had made, particularly in the past 20 years. With a flag in each hand and patriotic badges on his sunhat and shirt, he said: 'The economy, education, the whole system has been changing, and this ceremony is a symbol of China's self-reliance and independence.' Form Two student Vicky Choi Sum-yu, on a school trip, was less enthusiastic. 'I didn't want to come because it's so early,' she said. 'But I'll be happy when I see the flag.' A minute's solemn silence was broken at 8am by five Government Flying Service helicopters emerging from the blanket of fog over the harbour. The crowd clapped, cheered and waved their government-issue flags furiously as the helicopters passed, and bayonet-carrying policemen stood sentry-like as they oversaw the raising of the national and SAR flags. Seven government launches sailed past, shooting jets of water into the air. April 5th Action Group activists nearby were meanwhile lowering a national flag they had brought down their own makeshift flagpole, to protest against one-party rule on the mainland. Unmoved by the pageantry, their leader, Leung Kwok-hung, said: 'There will only be jubilation in National Day celebrations when the power returns to the people.'