There are 889 days or 76,809,600 seconds until the big moment.
That's the time left according to an electronic digital clock China has put up in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to count down the days and seconds until Hong Kong reverts to Chinese government control.
The countdown ends at midnight June 30, 1997, when the British lease on the colony expires.
Commenting on investors' perception of the clock, Mike Balfour, director, overseas investments, Edinburgh Fund Managers PLC, Edinburgh, Scotland, said: "It reinforces the fact that it's not that far away. Some of the fall last year in the (Hong Kong) stock market was the sudden realization that Chinese will soon take control."
For 1994, the Hong Kong market was down 31% in dollar terms, as reported by Morgan Stanley Capital International.
The clock's dimensions, in obvious symbolism of the big year, measure 19.97 meters high by 9.7 meters wide.
The clock also signals "Hong Kong is losing its monopoly on Chinese trade," Mr. Balfour added. "Some 70% of Chinese trade goes through Hong Kong."
Much of that trade will move to Shanghai, he said. "In the next 10 years, it is possible Shanghai may be more important than Tokyo" as a financial center.
Edinburgh Fund Managers has $1.3 billion invested in Asian Pacific countries, excluding Japan. Of that, since about mid-1993, it has had only 8% invested in Hong Kong, against a Morgan Stanley benchmark weighting of 35%.
Hong Kong has a similar clock counting down to 1997 in Causeway Bay, Mr. Balfour noted.
"That just unnerves the local populace," he added.
In addition, the Chinese were planning to erect another countdown clock in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
"International investors' warm feeling to China have cooled," he said. In November foreign intentions to invest directly in capital projects was down 36% from the previous year, he added.
"Hong Kong has been used as a conduit from which a lot a capital has passed from developed countries to China," he said. That decrease in that capital flow, which had added to the liquidity of the Hong Kong market and kept its interest rates low, will hurt Hong Kong, he added.
In a telling sign of the times, the clock in Tiananmen Square - which means Gate of Heavenly Peace and where in 1989 government troops killed several hundred demonstrators for democracy - advertises its sponsors, including a domestic airline and an engineering company.
The clock began its countdown Dec. 19, the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Chinese-British accord on Hong Kong's future. In the accord, the Chinese guarantee to preserve capitalism in Hong Kong for 50 years and to allow it a high degree of autonomy.
But Mr. Balfour said China has given concerns to investors recently about its ability to live up to commercial agreements. Lehman Brothers Inc. filed suit in November seeking to recover from foreign exchange and swap losses the $100 million it lent two state-owned companies, China International United Petroleum Chemicals Co. and Minmetals International Non-Ferrous Metals Trading Co. Another Chinese companies is disputing losses in the London metals futures markets with American and European banks.