History of Hong Kong

Discover the fascinating Hong Kong history

Though archeological studies reveal that there was human activity in the area over five millennia ago, it is not easy to track this early progress. It took many hundreds of years for any notable migrations from China to occur before there was even a notable population on the island. The most notable progress came in the 19th century when Britain ceded the island after the Opium Wars. Suddenly, the whole world, including China, was buzzing about these little islands. Though the period had seen significant activity and war by then, and Portuguese sailors had been engaging in trade with them for some time, it seemed that the rest world had suddenly woken up to its existence.

Tea, silk and other luxury Asian goods where introduced to the rest of Europe by the Portuguese. There was a big demand for these goods - especially tea. In response to China's monopoly on the tea industry, Britain invaded. This resulted in them winning the First Opium War in 1841. It was during this war that the island of Hong Kong was first occupied by the British.

After the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter's Island were also ceded to Britain in 1860. Various other nearby islands were leased for 99 years beginning in 1891 and ending only in 1997. In 1843, Hong Kong became a crown colony and in 1862, civil servants were taught Cantonese for the first time.

In 1945, Hong Kong was liberated and they celebrated by raising both the Union Flag and the Flag of the Republic of China.

During the Second World War, Hong Kong came under Japanese Occupation. This was a very dark time in the island's history. However, it was short lived when on the 15th August 1945, the Japanese surrendered. The port was re-opened and trade resumed. A mass migration of Chinese refugees all occurred.

When the United Nations ordered a trade embargo against China because of the Korean War, Hong Kong's position as a trading port greatly declined. In response to this, they established a textile industry and exploited the resources of the poor Chinese immigrants. In the late 1960s, Hong Kong started to develop a financial and banking economy and its textile industry began to fade. Hong Kong quickly became one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

In the 1980s, Britain began to negotiation the return of Hong Kong to China. The country was to be almost completely independent except in matters of foreign affairs and defense. The capitalist system already practiced in the country and the current life-style was to remain unchanged. These agreements went into effect on 1 July 1997 at the ending of Britain's 99 year lease. However, it resulted in land values collapsing and the economy suffering some damage. In 2003, Hong Kong was also hit by the SARS virus.


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