From British to Chinese rule: Hong Kong, in photos

The content originally appeared on: CNN
Chinese national and Hong Kong regional flags decorate a public housing building ahead of the city’s 25th handover anniversary.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

Chinese national and Hong Kong regional flags decorate a public housing building ahead of the city’s 25th handover anniversary.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

In 1984, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sat at a long table with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang in Beijing. They signed large red-bound documents with black fountain pens and shook hands. The crowd behind them applauded.

Almost 13 years later, at midnight on July 1, 1997, the colonial Hong Kong flag bearing the Union Jack was lowered for the last time, marking the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule — and its new status as a “special administrative region” under a framework known as “one country, two systems.”

In the 25 years that followed, the “Pearl of the Orient” faced two financial crises, the SARS epidemic, the Covid-19 pandemic, and political upheaval that culminated in a sweeping national security law that has transformed the city’s social and political landscape — raising questions on whether a 50-year promise of limited autonomy would be kept.

Halfway to the 2047 deadline, we look back at the former British colony’s roots — and where it’s headed next.