A pair of panda cubs given to Hong Kong as a gift from the central government arrived yesterday to celebrate the Special Administrative Region's 10th anniversary.
The SAR government said their new names, chosen from thousands of entries in a contest, will be Le Le and Ying Ying.
The pandas left their home in Wolong, Sichuan at 7 am for Chengdu, where they were put on a plane at 11:40 am bound for Hong Kong. The pair arrived at about 4 pm.
At a ceremony held at Hong Kong International Airport, Secretary for Home Affairs, Patrick Ho, and head of State Forestry Administration, Zhao Xuemin, signed and exchanged certificates, which signaled the official handover of the giant pandas.
In an address, Ho said after the central government gave An An and Jia Jia to the HKSAR in 1999, it was a privilege for Hong Kong to be given a new pair of young and healthy giant pandas.
"It shows the care and love of the central government for HKSAR, and we are truly grateful for that," he said.
The pandas will be trained by staff at Ocean Park to adjust to their new environment, Ho said, and they will officially meet the people of Hong Kong on July 1, the day of Hong Kong's handover.
He believed the pandas will bring lots of joy to the people of Hong Kong.
He also said the pandas have an "important duty", to build a family in Hong Kong.
Zhao said the people of Hong Kong and the whole of the Chinese mainland should feel especially happy.
It was raining when the pandas took off from Wolong, but the sun was shining brightly on their arrival in Hong Kong.
The male panda, number 606, was named Le Le, which means happiness.
The female, number 610, was named Ying Ying, which means fullness and blossom.
Their names were chosen from 13,000 entries in a competition organized by the Home Affairs Bureau.
HKSAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang said Le Le and Ying Ying are suitable names for the pandas.
Speaking in Henan, where he is on an economic visit, he hoped the panda's live happily and start a family in Hong Kong.
(China Daily April 27, 2007)