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Chronicle of major events since HK's return

Updated: 2012-06-30 14:26
( Xinhua)


Chronicle of major events since HK's return

HONG KONG - Hong Kong will mark the 15th anniversary of its return to China on July 1, when the new government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) led by Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying will be inaugurated at a ceremony attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The following is a chronicle of major events since Hong Kong's return to the motherland.

-- On July 1, 1997, a handover ceremony was held to mark China' s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. Tung Chee Hwa took office as the first Chief Executive of the HKSAR.

-- During September 23-25, 1997, the World Bank Group/ International Monetary Fund annual meetings were held in Hong Kong for the first time, enhancing Hong Kong's profile as a world-class financial center.

-- In 1998, Hong Kong overcame setbacks from the Asian financial crisis, including a series of speculator attacks that tumbled the city's benchmark Hang Seng index by around 60 percent. To counter the attacks, the HKSAR authorities used foreign exchange reserves in August to absorb excess liquidity in the market and managed to stabilize the equity market.

-- On July 6, 1998, the new Hong Kong International Airport commenced operation. The new airport, a multi-billion-dollar project at Chek Lap Kok, handled 53.9 million passengers and 3.9 million tonnes of air cargo in 2011, ranking the world's third- largest and largest respectively.

-- In early spring of 2003, Hong Kong reported an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which eventually led to nearly 300 deaths. On June 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed Hong Kong from its list of SARS-affected areas after months of epidemic control efforts.

-- On June 29, 2003, the Chinese mainland and HKSAR signed Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), which covered three broad areas, namely trade in goods, trade in services as well as trade and investment facilitation. The pact aimed to foster closer economic ties between the mainland and Hong Kong by phasing out tariffs and non-tariff barriers on trade in goods, phasing in liberalization of trade in services and promoting trade and investment facilitation.

-- In November 2003, the People's Bank of China, or the central bank, agreed to provide clearing arrangements for banks in Hong Kong to run personal renminbi (RMB) businesses on a trial basis. The central bank later appointed the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK) as the RMB clearing bank in Hong Kong. In February 2004, personal RMB banking services were launched in Hong Kong, marking a step forward for Hong Kong's development as RMB offshore center while enhancing its status as an international financial center.

-- In early June, 2004, the first Pan-Pearl River Delta Regional Cooperation and Development Forum was held in Hong Kong, marking the official launch of a cross-regional economic cooperation program between nine interior provinces and autonomous regions and Hong Kong and Macao, which provided a new platform for Hong Kong to enhance economic ties with the mainland. On April 7, 2010, the governments of the HKSAR and Guangdong Province signed a framework agreement on cooperation in Beijing. The agreement covers cooperation in nine areas including trans-boundary infrastructure, modern services, manufacturing and sci-tech innovation, business environment, living environment, and education.

-- In March 2005, Tung Chee Hwa resigned from the post as chief executive of the HKSAR for health reasons. He was elected vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, at the third annual full session of the 10th CPPCC National Committee on March 12. Acting Chief Executive Donald Tsang assumed the duties of the chief executive of HKSAR on the same day. On March 25, 2007, Tsang won overwhelming victory in the election of the third-term chief executive of the HKSAR. After the appointment of the Central People's Government, Tsang's term of office began on July 1, 2007.

-- On September 12, 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland, the 5th such theme park in the world, officially opened. Hong Kong Disneyland has become a new tour spot for local citizens and visitors to Hong Kong, which also helped boost the city's economy.

-- On November 9, 2006, Dr. Margaret Chan, former health chief of the HKSAR, was elected the new Director-General of the WHO at its top decision-making World Health Assembly in Geneva, following a nomination a day earlier by the 34-nation governing Executive Board. Chan became the first Chinese national that has been elected to head a UN specialized body. The World Health Assembly on May 23, 2012 appointed Chan as the WHO Director-General for a second term from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2017.

-- On July 1, 2007, Hong Kong celebrated the 10th anniversary of its return to China. The anniversary celebrations included more than 400 activities initiated by the HKSAR government and some 800 events held by civil groups in several months. Chief Executive Donald Tsang said the concept of "one country, two systems" had become the reality and the central government had kept its commitment to Hong Kong.

-- On May 12, 2008, a catastrophic earthquake hit southwest China's Wenchuan county and neighboring regions. Hong Kong compatriots have since contributed greatly to the disaster relief and reconstruction work with great love. As of the end of April 2011, the HKSAR had provided a total 8.43 billion yuan to support 190 reconstruction projects in the quake-hit region.

-- During August 9-20, 2008, Hong Kong hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympic Equestrian Events. More than 200 riders from over 40 countries and regions participated in the competition, which attracted numerous Hong Kong residents and tourists to the city.

-- During December 5-13, 2009, the 5th East Asian Games was held in Hong Kong, becoming the first international sports games hosted by Hong Kong since it returned to the motherland in 1997. Some 2,300 athletes from nine countries and regions participated in the competition.

-- In 2010, about one year after the global financial tsunami swept the world, Hong Kong achieved a strong economic rebound, with the government fiscal revenue expanding continuously and the unemployment rate dropping to a record low. The city's economy increased by 60 percent between 1997 and 2011 and the local per capita GDP grew from 27,000 U.S. dollars in 1997 to 34,000 U.S. dollars in 2011.

-- On June 25, 2010, Hong Kong's 60-member Legislative Council approved the method for the election of the  council in 2012 with a three-quarters majority, following the approval of the method for the election of the chief executive in 2012 the previous day, which signified the passage of the constitutional reform package, a "big step forward" for democratic development in the city.

-- On August 23, 2010, 21 Hong Kong tourists aboard a bus were hijacked by a Philippine gunman in Manila, capital of the Philippines. Altogether eight of the tourists died and seven others were injured in the incident. The HKSAR government announced a three-day city-wide mourning for the dead from August 24 to 26.

-- In March 2011, the Chinese central government published a guideline of the country's 12th five-year development plan for national economic and social development between 2011-2015, which for the first time carried a separate chapter for the development of Hong Kong and Macao. The blueprint, which promises measures to consolidate and strengthen Hong Kong's status of as an international financial, trade and shipping center, and support Hong Kong's efforts to become an international assets management center and an offshore RMB trading center, was widely welcomed among the general public of Hong Kong.

-- On March 25, 2012, Leung Chun-ying was elected the fourth HKSAR chief executive. The seventh plenary session of the State Council, China's cabinet, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, decided to appoint Leung as the fourth HKSAR chief executive to be sworn in on July 1, 2012.