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A Chinese soldier holds the national flag prior to its raising as the British military march, at right, during the handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 1, 1997. The event marks the end of 156 years of British colonial rule over the territory.
A Chinese soldier holds the national flag prior to its raising as the British military march, at right, during the handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 1, 1997. The event marked the end of 156 years of British colonial rule over the territory.Paul Lakatos—AFP/Getty Images
A Chinese soldier holds the national flag prior to its raising as the British military march, at right, during the handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 1, 1997. The event marks the end of 156 years of British colonial rule over the territory.
People crowd near the check-in counters at the departure level of the state-of-the-art Chek Lap Kok airport on July 6, 1998.
Mainland Chinese immigrants line up outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council building on July 8, 1999, to register their information to appeal for their residency rights in Hong Kong after the People's National Congress in Beijing provided a new interpretation of the Basic law. A Chief Judge admitted recent events in the right-of-abode affair had created confusion and he was unable to deal with a case of a mainland-born woman claiming the right to stay, the first to come before the court of Appeals since the re-interpretation of the Basic Law.
A trader on the stock exchange floor wears a protective mask against the SARS virus in Hong Kong on April 17, 2003. Airline stocks have been hit hard in the past few weeks due to fears over Severe Acute respiratory Syndrome.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa leaves a news conference after announcing his resignation on March 10, 2005. Tung cited health reasons for cutting short an eight-year tenure plagued by economic recession, policy blunders and unease over China's interference.
South Korean trade unionists scuffle with riot police during protests against the World Trade Organization's Sixth Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong on Dec. 14, 2005.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, center, sings on stage with performers at the conclusion of the Grand Variety Show in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the handover, in Hong Kong on June 30, 2007.
The Olympic torch, bottom, is paraded along Nathan Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong on May 2, 2008 as police hold back onlookers. Authorities detained around 20 people following minor scuffles along the route of the Olympic torch relay as it got underway in wet conditions, in what is seen as a last chance for protesters to pile more pressure on China over Tibet and its human rights record.
A protester holds a placard outside the flagship store of Dolce & Gabbana in Hong Kong on Jan. 8, 2012.
Protesters hold up pictures of Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying during a protest against Leung in Hong Kong on July 1, 2012. Hong Kong installs a new leader and marks 15 years of Chinese rule, at a time of strong anti-Beijing sentiment after Hu was targeted by angry protesters.
A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures after police fired tear gas towards protesters near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept. 28, 2014.
HONG KONG-CHINA-POLITICS-CENSORSHIP
HONG KONG-CHINA-POLITICS-INDEPENDENCE-PROTEST-ELECTIONS
Nathan Law, center, speaks at a rally with Jousha Wong, to his right, and supporters in Causeway Bay following Law's win in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong on Sept. 5, 2016. A new generation of young Hong Kong politicians advocating a break from Beijing looked set to become lawmakers for the first time in the biggest poll since mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014.
Baggio Leung (center left) and Yau Wai-ching (centre right) are surrounded by media as they leave the High Court after a news conference in Hong Kong on Nov. 15, 2016. A court ruled to disqualify the two pro-independence lawmakers from parliament. The ruling came a week after Beijing said it would not allow the pair to be sworn into office as fears grow of the city's liberties coming under threat.
Carrie Lam is congratulated after she won the election for Hong Kong's Chief Executive on March 26, 2017.
A Chinese soldier holds the national flag prior to its raising as the British military march, at right, during the hando
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Paul Lakatos—AFP/Getty Images
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Hong Kong 20th Anniversary: A Photographic Timeline of Highs and Lows

The stroke of midnight rang in a new destiny for Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. After 156 years as a British colony, Hong Kong, one of the planet’s most dynamic cities, became a special territory within China under a template called “one country, two systems.” The idea was that Hong Kong would pretty much run itself so long as it did not impinge on the rest of China. It was a noble sentiment, as well as a practical way to enable two entities that had evolved separately and differently to co-exist. But the first 20 years since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty have been characterized, above all, by a never-ending test of the faith and execution of that template, that idea, of “one country, two systems.”

China has gone on to become the world’s No. 2 economy and a superpower second only to the U.S. Hong Kong — once renowned globally for its singular money-making obsession and prowess — has become a politicized and fragmented society, much of it precisely because of its place and status as a a Chinese territory. For many if not most of Hong Kong’s citizens, maintaining its freedoms and way of life is paramount. For Beijing, it’s national sovereignty and security. In the past 20 years, the two missions have often clashed, with Hong Kong increasingly the loser. A range of emotions, mostly discrete yet also overlapping, prevails in the city — from pride at being part of a great nation to anxiety about being swallowed up by that same great nation.

Perhaps the most apt metaphor for Hong Kong’s first 20 years within China is a roller coaster ride: tumultuous, giddy, jarring. Here are some images of the highs and lows of those two decades.

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