HONG KONG MINI-HISTORY

156 YEARS OF BRITISH COLONIAL RULE

ended forever on July 1, 1997

香 巷

How it all begal

January 26, 1841

On that day, a British naval party landed on Hong Kong island and raised the British flag. The reason for the British takeover was in defense of international trade, and in fact it was the seizure and destruction, by the Chinese government, of goods being imported into China by British merchants that triggered the conquest of Hong Kong. Oh yes, the goods just happened to be 20,291 chests of opium.

After the opium was destroyed, the British merchants gathered on their ships at the entrance to the estuary. The Chinese government forbade any Chinese to provide them with supplies. The British fired on three Chinese war junks, and the stage for a land-grab was set.

In 1842, China formally ceeded Hong Kong island to Great Britain under the Treaty of Nanking. With the exception of some borderlands given up to Russia, this was the first time that China had ever formally given up its territory and sovereignty to outsiders.

It was the first, but not the last time , for in 1860, under the Convention of Peking, Britain gained even more territory in the immediate area, including the Southern tip of Kowloon. Again, like Hong Kong, these were outright acquisitions of territory. In 1898, the British again extracted new territorial concessions, but this time they did not demand absolute acquisition, this time they agreed to a lease of the New Territories, for the term of 99 years.

So you see, it actually isn't Hong Kong itself that was leased, but rather the New Territories, from which Hong Kong feeds itself and which houses its manufacturing base, etc. Without the New Territories, Hong Kong cannot be sustained. That is why when the New Territories were to be returned, the British and Chinese government negotiated the return of all of Hong Kong to go with it.

In 1984, an agreement was signed between Great Britain and the People's Republic of China, which sets out the basis for the return of all of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. Starting July 1, 1997, Hong Kong will be part of the People's Republic of China, under the agreed upon "one country, two systems." The present economic system is to remain for fifty years while politically Hong Kong is supposed to move toward greater democracy.

Recommended reading:

Hong Kong by Jan Morris, Vintage Books, 1985

 

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