The uncertain future hanging like a thundercloud over the British colony of Hong Kong has triggered a real estate slump, caused the Hong Kong dollar to skid wildly and stock prices to plummet.
GV TILT DOWN Street scenes in Hong Kong. (3 SHOTS)
SV INT Stock Exchange. (3 SHOTS)
GVs Hotel, shops and other buildings advertised for rent. (3 SHOTS)
GV Construction site lying idle. (2 SHOTS)
GVs Luxury premises left empty. (2 SHOTS)
GV PAN Skyline.
GV Construction workers on building site.
SV/GV Workers on construction site. (6 SHOTS)
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Background: The uncertain future hanging like a thundercloud over the British colony of Hong Kong has triggered a real estate slump, caused the Hong Kong dollar to skid wildly and stock prices to plummet. The nervousness among the colony's five million people has its focus on Britain's lease obligations to hand Hong Kong back to China in 14 years. Britain planted the Union Jack in Hong Kong after it signed a series of treaties in the 19th century with the Qing Imperial Dynasty. The lease expires in 1997. One treaty granted a lease for the New Territories while others ceded Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula to Britain in perpetuity. The Chinese government maintains that all the leases were illegal and invalid and is claiming sovereignty for the colony. The first of talks on Hong Kong's future began last September when the British Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher met with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. According to China watchers, Beijing was blunt. It wanted Whitehall and Beijing to reach agreement by the end of 1984, or China would announce its own solution. On July 1, it was announced that Britain and China will meet for a second round of talks which will be attended by the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Edward Youde, in Beijing on July 12. Sir Edward has already arrived in London (June 30) to confer with British officials on July 4 before the talks get underway in Beijing. Negotiations have been carried out under a veil of secrecy, although some Chinese leaders have made utterances which have thrown Hong Kong financial markets into panic at the prospect of a communist takeover. Hong Kong's real estate market is in the doldrums with luxury homes, priced at 500,000 US dollars, empty and unsold. The construction industry in at a standstill with work on many projects idle and rent signs have mushroomed all over the colony. The Hong Kong dollar has had many hiccups and still fluctuates, and there's been a rush in the overcrowded colony for foreign visas. According to Reuter, Beijing has pledged it will guarantee the continued the continued prosperity of Hong Kong when it regains sovereignty. At the moment, its predominantly Chinese population is jumpy and for the first time unsure of the future. The gloom in Hong Kong is not mirrored by another former British colony, the island republic of Singapore. Although hit by the world-wide recession, Singapore's inflation rate is one of the world's lowest. Its economy though sluggish, is performing creditably when measured with the industrial giants of the west. And while manufacturing has declined, the building industry is booming. Earlier this year, the building barometer climbed 30 per cent, pushed along by a massive public housing programme. Financial, business services, transport and communications are expanding, while Singapore's banking gnomes have shaped the island into the Zurich of the east. It bankers have made Singapore a financial supermart of the world.