Hong Kong History

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Hong Kong


Hong Kong (香港; "Fragrant Harbour") is an autonomous region on the southern coast of China and is geographically bounded by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea.

What is now known as Hong Kong was incorporated into China during the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC), and the area was firmly consolidated as part of China under Nanyue (203 BC – 111 BC.) Archaeological evidence suggests that the population started increasing during Han dynasty (206 BC – AD 220) and has continued to date.

Its harbor, Victoria harbor, is one of the best natural harbors in the world, and was particularly suited to the trading requirements of wind driven vessels.

Following what became known as the Opium Wars, Hong Kong Island and the outlying islands, as well as the Kowloon Peninsula as far north as Boundary Street, were ceded in perpetuity to Great Britain. Later the New Territories from Boundary Street to the Mainland Border were leased to great Britain on a 100 year lease.

Hong Kong's population is 93.6% ethnic Chinese and 6.4% from other groups. These other groups include Indians, and a large group of expatriate Westerners. Hong Kong's Cantonese-speaking majority originated primarily from the neighboring Guangdong province, from which many Mainland Chinese fled to escape wars and communist rule in mainland China from the 1930s to 1960s. At that time, after the cessation of hostilities from WWII, the border between the New Territories and Mainland China was famously porous. Millions fled to Hong Kong for freedom.

As a result of ongoing negotiations between, and the 1984 agreement between China and Britain, Hong Kong was handed over to the People's Republic of China and became China's first Special Administrative Region on 1 July 1997 under the principle of "one country, two systems". However the actual implementation of this principle has been fraught with problems, with the two sides having differing opinions as to what is meant by democratic freedom.

The roots of Hong Kong’s legal system can be traced back to the English legal system and it has evolved over the years. Hong Kong's sources of law are derived from the residual British system, augmented by legislation, subsidiary legislation (e.g. Rules and Regulations etc) and judge-made law.

Hong Kong is one of the major business and banking centers of the world, and acts as a financial bridge between Mainland China and the West. As such, it is also one of the 5 top trans-shipping ports in the world.


14th century – Hong Kong remains relatively empty and loses contact with the imperial court.
1557 – The Portuguese set up a trading base on nearby Macau.
1714 – The British East India Company establishes offices in Guangzhou. Britain immediately starts to import Opium, causing massive addiction to the drug in China.
1840 – The First Opium War breaks out. The war is caused by the Chinese seizing an estimated half tonne of British imported opium and burning it.
1841 – The British rout the Chinese forces, occupying ports along the Yangtze River, including Shanghai. The Chinese sign a peace treaty ceding the island of Hong Kong to Britain.
1841 – A landing party raises the British flag at Possession Point on Hong Kong Island claiming the island in the name of the Queen.
1843 – Hong Kong’s first governor, Sir Henry Pottinger is dispatched to take charge of the twenty or so villages on the island and conduct British trade.
1845 –The Hong Kong Police Force is established.
1850 – The population of Hong Kong stands at 32,000.
1856 – The second Opium War breaks out.
1860 – The Chinese find themselves on the losing side again and are forced to cede the Kowloon peninsula and Stonecutter’s Island to the British.
1864 – The Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC) is founded in Hong Kong.
1888 – The Peak Tram starts operation.
1895 – Dr Sun Yat Sen, basing himself out of Hong Kong attempts to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. He fails and is exiled from the colony.
1898 – Britain forces more concessions from the failing Qing Dynasty, gaining a 99-year lease of the New Territories. This lease will end in 1997.
1900 – The city’s population reaches 260,000, this number continues to grow thanks to war and conflict in China proper.
1924 – Kai Tak Airport is built.
1937 – Japan invades China resulting in a flood of refuges heading for Hong Kong swelling the population to around 1.5 million
1941 – After attacking Pearl Harbour, the Japanese army invades Hong Kong. The overstretched colony resists the invasion for two weeks. Western citizens, including the governor, are interned in Stanley, while Chinese citizens are massacred in large numbers.
1945 – As Japan surrenders to the Allies, they surrender Hong Kong, returning it to British ownership.
1950’s – Many refugees provide the labour for Hong Kong’s rapidly expanding manufacturing industry.
1967 – As the cultural revolution grips China, Hong Kong is hit by riots and a bombing campaign orchestrated by left wingers. Chinese militia men, believed to have permission from Beijing, cross the Hong Kong border, shooting five police officers before re-crossing back into China. Locals mostly remain loyal to the colonial government.
1973 – Hong Kong’s first new town at Sha Tin is built in an attempt to help relieve the city’s housing crisis.
1970’s – The British and Chinese government begin to negotiate about Hong Kong’s status after the 99-year lease of the New Territories runs out in 1997.
1980 – The population of Hong Kong reaches 5 million.
1984 – Margaret Thatcher announces that the whole of Hong Kong is to be handed back to China at midnight on June 30th 1997. It would have been practically impossible for the British to hold onto Hong Kong Island while handing back the New Territories, with half of the colony’s population living there. Hong Kongers largely welcome the move, although there are major reservations.
1988 – The details of the Hong Kong Handover emerge, including the Basic Law which will govern the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is largely slated to remain the same for the fifty years that follow the handover. Concern remains on whether China will honour the agreement or impose communist rule directly after 1997.
1989 – The Tiananmen Square massacre sees fear grip Hong Kong. The stock market plunges 22% in a single day and queues form outside the US, Canadian and Australian embassy as Hong Kongers looked to emigrate to safety ahead of the handover.
1992 – Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last governor arrives to take up his post.
1993 – Patten attempts to expand the direct election of councillors to Hong Kong’s Legco in breach of the Chinese-British agreement on the handover of the city. Beijing would ultimately dismiss a number of the democraticly elected councillors after the handover in 1997.
1996 – In a limited election orchestrated by Beijing, Tung Chee Hwa is elected Chief Executive of Hong Kong. He is met sceptically by the Hong Kong public.
1997 – The Hong Kong Handover takes place. Prince Charles and Tony Blair lead the British party, while China is represented by Premier Jiang Zemin. Governor Chris Patten sails for Britain on the royal yacht.
2003 – Hong Kong suffers a deadly outbreak of the SARS virus, which kills 300 people.
2005 – Tung Chee Hwa is forced to resign after popular protest. Donald Tsang, a local man who worked in the colonial government, replaces him.
2005 – Hong Kong Disneyland opens.
2007 – Hong Kong’s first contested election for Chief Executive takes place between incumbent Donald Tsang and Alan Leong. Tsang was assured victory, thanks to the control of Beijing, but it was a positive signal for Hong Kong’s hopes of democracy.
2008 – The Hong Kong population reaches 7 million.

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