On July 1, 1997, China’s five-star red flag was raised over Hong Kong for the first time in 156 years. It drew an end to the British colonial rule and opened a new chapter for Hong Kong as it became one of the special administrations of China under the “one country, two systems” framework.

Ahead of its 20th anniversary, Asia Times lists 10 key political events in Hong Kong since the 1997 Handover that is of significance and somewhat shaped the city’s political climate today.

A girl holds up a placard against the controversial Article 23 law during a protest in July 2003. Photo: AFP/Peter Parks.
A girl holds up a placard against the controversial Article 23 proposed law during a protest in July 2003. Photo: AFP/Peter Parks

July 1, 2003

Half a million people showed up to march against the Article 23 national security legislation, which protestors feared would restrict civil liberties in Hong Kong. The law was proposed by the Hong Kong government in September 2002. It prohibits acts of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion.

March 2005

Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa waves to photographers after a press conference at the Central Government Offices (CGO) building in Hong Kong where he announced his resignation. Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa waves to photographers after a press conference at the Central Government Offices building in Hong Kong where he announced his resignation. Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe

Tung Chee-hwa, the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong since the handover, resigned amid mounting criticism of his rule, citing his failing health. Tung was succeeded in June by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

December 2005

Protesters wearing masks march during a demonstration against the sixth World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je.
Protesters wearing masks march during a demonstration against the sixth World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je

Anti-globalization protesters took to the streets as delegates gather in Hong Kong at the World Trade Organization’s summit. Clashes with police throughout the six-day meeting occasionally turned violent, as officers used pepper spray on activists.

July 1, 2007

Chief Executive Donald Tsang (left) is sworn in for another term by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP/Mike Clarke
Chief Executive Donald Tsang (left) is sworn in for another term by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP/Mike Clarke

Chinese President Hu Jintao traveled to Hong Kong for the Special Administrative Region’s 10th anniversary. More than 40,000 attended harbourfront fireworks while 68,000 protested on the streets demanding more political freedom.

July-September 2012

Demonstrators display a banner reading "withdraw brain washing education" during a protest against the government's efforts to implement national education in Hong Kong on July 29, 2012. Photo: AFP/Dale de la Rey
Demonstrators display a banner reading “withdraw brain washing education” during a protest against the government’s efforts to implement national education in Hong Kong on July 29, 2012. Photo: AFP/Dale de la Rey

A proposal to introduce a compulsory national education subject in schools provoked outrage among Hong Kong citizens, fearing the government’s attempt to brainwash future generations to support Beijing.

April 23, 2014
Former Ming Pao editor and veteran journalist Kevin Lau Chun-to was attacked and admitted to hospital. The incident prompted a huge demonstration and citywide debate about the future of press freedom in Hong Kong.

June 29, 2014
Nearly 800,000 Hongkongers took part in an unofficial referendum on proposals on how to bring in universal suffrage. More than 90% voted in favor of giving the public a say on short-listing candidates for future elections for chief executive. Beijing condemned the vote as illegal.

September 28, 2014

Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong pro-democracy group Occupy Central launched a mass civil disobedience campaign calling for greater political freedom from Beijing. More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the height of the so-called “Umbrella Movement.” The demonstrations are the most intense civil unrest in Hong Kong’s history as a special administrative region, which were sparked by Beijing’s decision in August to restrict who can stand for the city’s top post.

October-December 2015

A closed sign with written words of support from visitors is displayed outside the security gate of Causeway Bay Books store that sells books on Chinese politics in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace
A closed sign with written words of support from visitors is displayed outside the security gate of Causeway Bay Books store that sells books on Chinese politics in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace

Five staff members of Causeway Bay Books went missing when traveling in mainland China and Thailand. The unprecedented disappearance shocked the city and raised international concerns over possible abduction of Hong Kong citizens by mainland Chinese public security bureau officials which, if proven, would breach Hong Kong’s Basic Law and its underlying principle of one country, two systems.

November 2016

Pro-independence lawmakers Sixtus "Baggio" Leung (left) and Yau Wai-ching (right) speak to the press outside the High Court in Hong Kong on November 15, 2016, after a court ruled to disqualify them from parliament. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace
Pro-independence lawmakers Sixtus “Baggio” Leung (left) and Yau Wai-ching speak to the press outside the High Court in Hong Kong on November 15, 2016, after a court ruled to disqualify them from parliament. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace

The High Court disqualifies two pro-independence legislators Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching after they refused to pledge allegiance to China during a swearing-in ceremony.

February 2017

Selina Tsang (center), wife of former Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang, is accompanied by her two sons Simon Tsang Hing-yin (left) and Thomas Tsang Hing-shun (right), as she addresses the media after her husband Donald Tsang was sentenced to 20 months for misconduct in Hong Kong on February 22, 2017. Photo: AFP/Isaac Lawrence
Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei (center), wife of former Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, is accompanied by her two sons Simon Tsang Hing-yin (left) and Thomas Tsang Hing-shun (right), as she addresses the media after her husband was sentenced for misconduct. Photo: AFP/Isaac Lawrence

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was sentenced to 20 months in prison for concealing private rental negotiations with a property tycoon for a luxury apartment in China, in return for awarding its owner a broadcasting license.