A Short History of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a special administrative region China situated on its south coast and surrounded by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea. Hong Kong is famous for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbor.

Hong Kong was a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War. Since 1997, it has once again been brought back under the control of China. Today, Hong Kong continues to prosper under China’s policy of one country – two systems. Hong Kong has become one of the most successful islands in the world. Its growth as a financial center has blossomed over the last century and today and its future is bright as ever.

Hong Kong

Islands of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas of the world. The population is quite high with the island inhabitants reaching over 7 million. Hong Kong is known as one of Asia’s most excellent financial markets and it ranks as one of the most successful and important financial, cultural and communications hubs in the world.

The vast majority of Hong Kong is composed of mostly Chinese inhabitants. Few expatriates of all nationalities live in Hong Kong as well but, Hong Kong is also known for its multinational atmosphere.

Fragrant Harbor

The word “Hong Kong” is derived from Cantonese word “Hakka” meaning fragrant harbor. Aberdeen Harbor is known as the original harbor of Hong Kong.

The island of Hong Kong was settled as millennia by China. The first mention of Hong Kong was recorded by the Portuguese explorer Jorge Alvares who arrived in 1513. It was for the first time in 1842 when the name Hong Kong was officially used following the signing of Nanking treaty by China and Britain.

Important Trading Post of Britain

Hong Kong was used by the British to an extent for trading opium among other commodities in the mid 1800’s. The Qing Dynasty’s refusal to no longer import Opium- a dangerous narcotic in 1839 had social and financial affects on China that led her into the First Opium War with Britain.

Hong Kong was occupied by Britain in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking. A Crown Colony was established by the British established and the Victoria City was founded. In the coming years and during the Second Opium War, Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island was also ceded to Britain. In 1898, Britain obtained a 99 year lease of Hong Kong and at that time was known as the New Territories. Hong Kong remained in the control of the United Kingdom for a period 99 years leading up to 1997.

Hong Kong during WW II

Hong Kong played a major role as a center of trade of Asia during the early part of the 20th century. Hong successfully progressed financially and culturally. However during the Second World War, the Japanese Empire was able to drive the British off the island in the Battle of Hong Kong and took control of Hong Kong as a colony on December 1941.

The civilians of the island suffered enormously throughout the invasion and occupation of Hong Kong. There were wide spread food shortages and hyper inflation since all currency needed to be converted to military notes. In fact conditions were so bad that from 1971 to 1945 when the control of Hong Kong returned back to the British after Japan surrendered, almost half the population of Hong Kong civilians had died.

Recovery of Hong Kong after WW II

The population of Hong Kong swiftly improved after World War II because of the arrival of migrants from the mainland of China- mainly due to the Chinese Civil. In addition, many companies shifted their operations to Hong Kong due to the communist takeover of the mainland. Since many years, there was a rapid growth in industry such as textiles and manufacturing.

There was not only cheap labor but Hong Kong being mostly built on a capitalist philosophy made it easy for businesses and entrepreneurs to operate. While Hong Kong progressed in economy, China became more isolated and it left Hong Kong as the only link between the world and the Mainland. Nowadays, Hong Kong is known less for its manufacturing and more for its service based industry – specifically in finance and banking sectors.

Change over from UK to China’s control

The British handed over Hong Kong to China’s control on midnight of 1sr July 1997. However both the United Kingdom and the China were planning the transition close to 20 years before then. The Sino-British Joint Declaration was agreed upon in 1984. This document fixed that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region for at least the next 50 years which began in 1997. The laws were retained as a large extent to its autonomy. The agreement was helpful in making sure to continue Hong Kong succeed and would not face severe disruptions when the transition took place.


One Country – Two Systems

These days, Hong Kong is ruled under the principle of one country – two systems. Hong Kong continues to enjoy a wide degree of autonomy based upon the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The matters of defense and foreign affairs are ruled by Basic Law, which is outlined in Hong Kong’s constitution. Under Basic Law, the people of Hong Kong continue to enjoy an economic system based on capitalism, a guarantee of human rights and freedoms and a government with a large representation of democratically elected officials. Hong Kong continues to be a powerhouse economically and culturally in Asia and its future bright.