Hong Kong’s modern history began in 1841 when Hong Kong Island was ceded to the British in perpetuity as a spoil of the first Opium War. Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island were added to the Colony in 1860 and the New Territories including the Outlying Islands, were leased to Great Britain for 99-years.
The origin of Hong Kong was driven by a desire for trade with China. This continued and developed throughout the 19th century. However, during the 20th century Hong Kong’s economic base shifted to manufacturing, aided in part by the turmoil in China during the 1920s and 1930s. Chinese capitalists settled in the British colony for safety, bringing with them their skills and money.
When the Communists came to power in China it was widely expected that they would take control of Hong Kong, but they chose not to, recognizing its economic importance. Subsequently the Hong Kong economy has matured from a centre of manufacturing to a service-based economy, and now relies heavily on banking, legal services, its port, and of course tourism.
The official Handover held on 1 July 1997 when Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty, is embodied in the Sino-British Joint Declaration which allows Hong Kong to retain its present social, economic and legal systems for at least 50 years. Hong Kong is now designated as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, which allows it to exist under the ‘one county, two systems’ rule.
Despite having been handed back to China, Hong Kong still retains its unique blend of east meets west, and in its brief 160 year history, Hong Kong has been transformed from a barren island into today’s highly developed World Class City.