For the time being, Hong Kong remains a territory in constant motion. From its towering skyscrapers, business deals are conducted around the globe, around the clock. Its teeming narrow alleyways are alive with the incessant chatter of merchants and shoppers.

Yet, as adept as Hong Kong's 6 million people are at such unremitting action and change, the tiny British enclave is still coming to terms with its scheduled reversion to Chinese sovereignty, now less than two years away.

Although China has promised to allow Hong Kong to continue its boisterous way of life for another 50 years after the transition, lingering doubts over Beijing's posttransition intentions worry nearly every sector of Hong Kong society.

ON BORROWED TIME: Whether or not Hong Kong is ready for what lies ahead, China is coming for its prize. Perched on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, a 30-foot-high digital clock impassively counts down the number of days, hours, and minutes until the territory's "homecoming" on June 30, 1997.

An identical clock has been installed in the southern Chinese border city of Shenzhen. To the thousands of travelers who pass through the border post each day, it is a poignant reminder that modern Hong Kong is, and always has been, a borrowed place on borrowed time.

For Hong Kong's Christian leaders, fears that the posttransition administration may not grant full religious freedom have led the territory's 1,100 churches to a crisis.

By 1997, it is estimated that one in four Hong Kong Christians will have either left the territory or will be holding a foreign passport. This figure is double the proportion of the general population, which is one in eight. According to the Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement, between 1985 and 1993, up ...

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