Britain signs over Hong Kong to China

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The British colony of Hong Kong was to be returned to China in 1997 after an historic agreement was signed in Peking on 19 December 1984.Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signed the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang. It formally sealed the future of Hong Kong, transferring it from a British colony of six million people to communist China in 13 years. The agreement, which ended 155 years of British rule in the colony, also launched a new era in trade and diplomacy between the two countries. Chinese president Deng Xiaoping, who pursued the recovery of Hong Kong, greeted Mrs Thatcher. The champagne ceremony took place at the Great Hall of the People before delegates who helped draw up the agreement, including 101 guests from Hong Kong. The declaration outlined Hong Kong will be “restored” to the People’s Republic of China with effect from July 1, 1997 and will apply for fifty years. It is known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Britain has agreed to return Hong Kong after guarantees it will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs. And China’s principle of “one country, two systems” allows Hong Kong to have a capitalist economy and enjoy existing rights and freedoms. The Prime Minister later revealed the negotiation process had been rocky. When Mrs Thatcher last visited Peking in 1982 the atmosphere was hostile as an agreement could not be reached. Talks restarted in July 1983 and the agreement, which was finalized only ten days before the 30 September deadline, was hailed as a diplomatic coup.

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