Hong Kong joined other Chinese cities as well as Chinese embassies worldwide to observe three days of national mourning starting on Monday, with flags flown at half mast on government buildings and schools.
The Chinese national flag and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region flag were lowered to half mast at the Golden Bauhinia Square after rising to the top in the early morning. It was one of the rare moments since 1997.
Shortly before the ceremony, some tourists and citizens gathered amid a drizzle at the square, a landmark on the waterfront of the Victoria Harbor.
A local girl and guard of honor said it was a moment with special significance, while a tourist from Jiangsu Province said he was deeply saddened.
"It was the moment for mourning the dead," he said.
Another tourist from Shanghai said he was moved by the people in Hong Kong, who had been donating generously and sending rescue teams to the quake-struck area.
China announced three days of mourning on Sunday for the magnitude-8.0 earthquake in the mountainous Wenchuan County of Sichuan Province. The earthquake has caused a confirmed death toll of over 30,000, with thousands still buried in rubbles.
Flags will be flown at half mask for three days, with three minutes of silence to be observed at 2:28 PM, the time the earthquake hit on May 12.
Donald Tsang, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said on Sunday Hong Kong will also observe the days of mourning.
Top members of the public services such as Chief Secretary Henry Tung and Financial Secretary John Tsang put on their dark suits and ties, local broadcaster RTHK reported.
Some of the local newspapers also put on bold black or grey headlines.
The Hong Kong stock exchange said officials at the company will observe three minutes of silence at 2:28 PM and called on traders to suspend offering and buying in the first minute after trade resumed at 2:30 PM.
(Xinhua News Agency May 19, 2008)