After six years and $200 million in development, the permanent exhibition of the Hong Kong Museum of History opened yesterday to the beat of a Chinese gong. Opening the exhibition, The Hong Kong Story, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen made no mention of the influence of Britain on the territory's development. 'Hong Kong's transformation from a fishing village into a world-class metropolis was made possible only with the infallible spirit of her people,' he said. 'We have overcome numerous challenges and crises over the years, and our reunion with the motherland has opened up a new page in our history,' Mr Tsang said as he welcomed dignitaries. The exhibition in Tsim Sha Tsui received an enthusiastic response from curators, historians and dignitaries at the launch ahead of today's public opening. Rooms focus - in order - on the natural environment, prehistoric Hong Kong, the dynasties from Han to Qing, folk culture, the opium wars and cession to the British, the city's early days, Japanese occupation, and the handover. All tours are in Cantonese, although signs, documentation and multimedia exhibits are bilingual. The story appears to be told from the perspective of ordinary people rather than leaders, recreating street scenes, popular culture, classrooms and festivals. A mention of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong in 1989 'in sympathy with the Beijing student protests' did not refer directly to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Local historian Phillip Bruce admired the way organisers had been able to provide an interesting experience without losing historical integrity. Setting the exhibition up would probably have been a political minefield, he said, but it provided a format which worked. 'It [colonialism] flows beautifully into the story and flows out again,' he said. Robert Edwards, an Australian art exhibition consultant who worked with the museum 20 years ago, described the exhibition as fantastic. Organisers had struck a good balance between the prehistoric, Chinese and colonial aspects of Hong Kong's past, he said, a view shared by the immediate past president of the Royal Asiatic Society, Dr Dan Waters. Anna Vong Kit-nan, who works at Macau's Maritime Museum, said the exhibition was a fun opportunity for Hong Kong people to remember their own history. Hugo Lam Man-Fai, Wong Tai Sin District Council chairman, said he particularly liked a model post office. He also enjoyed showing his daughter an exhibit featuring his photograph. His pass to the handover ceremony was also part of the display.