Hong Kong History

Prehistory Period 
A convenient location of Hong Kong provided the settlement in this area even in ancient times. Archaeological findings of combat tools, bronze fishing and stone carvings which contained some religious significance show that human activity in Hong Kong started more than 30 000 years ago. Before the Chinese people, an unknown ancient race known as the Yue people lived in today’s area of Hong Kong. According to a recently discovered burial grounds and research carried out, they were warriors with a non-Chinese religion. Not many things are known about them, except the fact they faced the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who concluded that the Yue were not live up to for the powerful Chinese force and were eliminated soon, and Hong Kong became part of the Chinese empire.

Imperial China History
Due to the unification of China by the Qin Dynasty, the area of today’s Hong Kong was incorporated into the empire in 214 BC. With the death of Emperor Huang in 210 BC turmoil erupted against the rule of his successor. Han Chinese general, Zhao Tuo, staked the area of what is now Hong Kong, founded his own kingdom and named the area Nanyue. He ruled until 112 BC when Han Dynasty took Nanyue over. During the reign of this dynasty, the salt industry developed in Hong Kong, and according to historians, it was one of the major reason for the significant increase in population. The Han Dynasty was soon replaced by the Tang Dynasty. They turned Hong Kong into an important seaport, using its strategic location, which provided the easier trade between China and the world. The region soon became a profitable trading port, a naval base and an ideal location for pearl farming.

The Tang dynasty was the dynasty that ruled for three centuries, from 618 to 907.  Besides the development of Hong Kong as a trading port, the period of Tang dynasty’s rule is seen as the period of territorial expansion, cultural domination, and huge prosperity. During the reign of Xuanzong, China was the strongest political unit in the world, and one of the richest empires. The dynasty also brought huge changes for poetry and the arts in general, so this period is regarded as a golden age for that matter. The Song dynasty succeeded the Tang dynasty and ruled almost the same amount of time.

The founders of the Song dynasty, Zhao family, ruled from 960–1279 and unified China in peace.  This period was remarkable for the development of science and technology, and the trade flourished even more than during the dynasties before. The Northern Song emperors admired the arts greatly, as well as the Tang dynasty, so the emperor Huizong supported a painting academy, being himself a painter and calligrapher. This period brings the most elegant ceramics in Chinese history, and they are very simple in their forms, using very little decoration. This dynasty was important regarding the education as well since the first village schools were founded, such as Li Ying College (1075), first academy in Imperial Hong Kong.

In 1276, The Mongols invaded China, and in order to escape the horde, child of Emperor Duan Zong along with members of Song Dynasty wanted to go to Hong Kong, though it was unsuccessful attempt; they all drowned in the Pearl River. The Mongols ruled over Hong Kong for a while and its population represented a mix of Chinese refugees from various clans.

The Ming Dynasty was in charge of Hong Kong in the16th century and this was the period of the arrival of the Portuguese in China, for the sake of trade. However, they also built up military defenses and Chinese confronted them. After this, the Chinese ruling dynasty levied the Maritime Prohibition law in order to preserve foreign powers from trading. A lot of natives of Hong Kong left their land and move to mainland China since the time was confusing and it didn’t give a lot of opportunities for trading. This movement took place from 1661 to 1669.

In 1669, the British arrived in China, in the form of the East India Company and it was the period when the trade developed between East and the West. British used Hong Kong as the main port to bring opium into China. This was not very convenient since the local population started using opium in a bad manner, so a lot of them became addicts. Eventually, it was banned by the Emperor Chia Ch’ing, but they continued using it secretly. This ban enraged British, and eventually brought to the First Opium War (1839-1842). After Britain took Hong Kong over by The Treaty of Nanjing.

Hong Kong under the British Rule
The British were not satisfied with what they got after The First Opium War since they strived to expand their foothold, starting the Second Opium War in 1860. After this war, the Beijing Convention was signed which ceded the Kowloon peninsula to Britain.  However, this was still not enough for the ambitious Britain, so in 1898 the British leased the New Territories together with 235 islands for a period of 99 years. The total area of the Colony in this period was 398 square miles. One of the first urban settlements in Hong Kong was given a name Victoria, after her Majesty the Queen, who reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. Many useful services developed in this period – the HK & China Gas Company (1861), the Peak Tram (1885), the HK Electric Company (1889), China Light & Power (1903), the Tramways (1904) and the Kowloon – Canton Railway (1910). Trade was still one of the most important features of Hong Kong, making it one of the world’s greatest ports. Nevertheless, the beginning half of the 20th century was still not a stable period for China and the revolution occurred in 1912, following a period of political instability. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 led to a departure of nearly 60,000 Chinese, because of the fear that colony might be attacked. But this didn’t prevent Hong Kong’s population to boom in the decades to come, from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925.

Japanese occupation
The Japanese invasion made even more refugees head towards the British colony, even though Hong Kong was still a vulnerable territory after the crisis in China in the 1920s and 1930s. According to this, by 1939, the population had risen to 1.6 million. Hong Kong was a part of Japanese interconnected attacks across Asia on December 7, 1941. The fall of the colony occurred on Christmas Day 1941, and it was in Japanese possession until August 1945. During their savagely violent regime which lasted three years and eight months, the population of the colony decreased to 600,000, and it usually consisted of those who were suffering from hunger and starvation. Britain took Hong Kong over again on August 30, 1945, and the civil government established in May 1946. A lot of refugees helped the increase of the population, especially economic and political refugees from China, who were escaping from the civil war between the Nationalists and Communists, and they joined thousands of Chinese and foreigners who returned to Hong Kong. By 1950, the population of Hong Kong increased to 2.3 million.

After World War II
After World War II decolonization took its place around the world, and many changes happened, except for Hong Kong, which still remained in British possession for strategic reasons. Hong Kong became an increasingly prosperous center for the manufacturing production of domestic and electrical goods, international commerce and banking. 1950s were crucial when it comes to its economic revival, thanks to light industries such as textiles, buttons, umbrellas and similar goods that didn’t ask for an enormous space to be produced. However, the next decade was of a huge importance for Hong Kong’s economy, and it is considered to be a milestone since it was marked by the outbreak of protests of the poorly paid workforce. The things culminated in 1966, with the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, also known as Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, started by Mao Zedong, a leader of the Communist Party, who wanted to preserve the communist ideology within the country. The revolution basically lasted until 1976, though one of the major events were violent riots that occurred in 1967.

The period after the revolution was a prolific period regarding the development of Hong Kong. In general, working and living conditions improved, where labor legislation, housing projects, and work programs contributed a lot. The development of high-technology industries was also noted and Hong Kong was established as an “Asian Tiger”.  The beginning of the 1980s was considered as small, but safe steps towards the independence of Hong Kong. First serious talks between Britain and China on the future of Hong Kong begun in 1982, which eventually led to the signing of Joint Declaration, which focused on the conditions under which Hong Kong will be given back to Chinese rule in 1997.

One Country, Two Systems
June 30, 1997 was the crucial day when Britain returned Hong Kong to China, classifying it as a Special Administrative Region of China, operating under the principle of “one country two systems”. Though Hong Kong became a part of a communistic country, it mainly kept its capitalist economic and democratic political system. According to the 1898 agreement, Britain had the obligation to return just the New Territories to Chinese control in 1997, but the Communist Chinese government insisted on recovering the entire colony of Hong Kong, refusing to accept anything less during diplomatic negotiations. Even though the government of Margaret Thatcher hoped to retain the Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, eventually everything was given back to China. The extent of democracy that should be allowed in Hong Kong was continued to be discussed even after the negotiations, but Chinese mostly ignored the British government’s attempts to make reforms.

Hong Kong was of enormous significance for British Empire, regarding its economy and other aspects crucial for development, which was the main reason why it took so long for China to recover it from British. From this aspect, the year of 1997 can be considered as the end of the Imperial adventure, even though there are still small dependent colonies around the globe today.

Hong Kong Present Days
Although this former British colony today officially belongs to China, it has a relatively high degree of autonomy, according to the constitution and there are many things making it different from the rest of the country. It retained its legal system, currency, customs, commercial negotiation rights and immigration laws. It even kept its right to drive on the left side of the road.  The travel documents issued in Hong Kong since 1997 mean visa-free travel to several countries, including the countries of the Schengen Agreement while the rest of the country does not enjoy visa – free regime. Hong Kong is a very attractive tourist destination where thousands of tourists come to visit. It is a place where relaxation can be combined with business.

Though being the urban place, the population took care of the small islands connecting Hong Kong and made a natural paradise out of them. The education system is excellently ordered, and today Hong Kong has one of the best technological and scientific universities in the world. The university of Hong Kong is one of the oldest in this part of the world and has the Anglo-Saxon system. Hong Kong offers a lot of fun and relaxation, and it is the seat (along with India) of Asian film industry. It is rich in museums, cultural and artistic life, having a grand opera and the famous Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The Internet in Hong Kong is not filtered as in mainland China, so in Hong Kong, you may access websites and applications which are restricted in the rest of the country.

Despite its great dependence on global economic conditions, the years after 1977 were enormously prosperous for Hong Kong, considering the fact that economy of this city experienced steady and flourishing growth. It has one of the most liberal economies in the world, making it the international finance and trading center. The largest sector of industry is manufacturing, and with electronic, plastic and construction industries makes four key industries of Hong Kong.