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History of Hong Kong
Timeline
Prehistoric
Imperial (221 BC - 1800s)
Colonial (1800s - 1930s)
Occupied (1940s)
Modern Hong Kong
(1950s - 1997)
1950s | 60s | 70s | 80s |
90s
Handover to PRC rule
At present

Aviation history
Bus history
Technical standards

History of China
History of the UK

Other Hong Kong topics
Culture - Economy
Education - Geography -
Politics
Hong Kong Portal
Hong Kong began as a coastal island geographically located in southern China. While pockets of settlements
had taken place in the region with archaeological findings dating back thousands of years, regularly written
records were not made until the engagement of Imperial China and the British Colony in the territory. Starting out
as a fishing village, salt production site and trading ground, it would evolve into a military port of strategic
importance and eventually an international financial centre that enjoys the world's 14th highest GDP (PPP) per
capita, supporting 33% of the foreign capital flows into China.[1]


Prehistoric Era
Main article: Pre-history of Hong Kong
Archaeological findings suggest human activity in Hong Kong dates back over 30,000 years. Stone tools of the
pre-historic people during the old stone age have been excavated in Sai Kung in Wong Tei Tung. The stone tools
found in Sai Kung were perhaps from a stone tools making ground.Religious carvings on outlying islands and
coastal areas have also been found, possibly related to Che people in Neolithic. The latest findings dating from
the Paleolithic suggest that Wong Tei Tung (黃地峒) is one of the most ancient settlements in Hong Kong.



Imperial China Era (221 BC - 1800s)
Main article: History of Hong Kong under Imperial China
The territory was incorporated into China during the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC), and the area was firmly
consolidated under Nam Yuet (203 BC - 111 BC.) Archaeological evidence indicates that the population has
increased since the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220). In the 1950s, the tomb at Lei Cheng Uk from the Eastern Han
Dynasty (25 – 220) was excavated and archaeologists began to investigate the possibility that salt production
flourished in Hong Kong around 2000 years ago, although conclusive evidence has not been found.

Tai Po Hoi, the sea of Tai Po, was a major pearl hunting harbour in China since Han Dynasty. The activities
peaked during the Southern Han (917 to 971) and continued till Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644)

During the Tang Dynasty, the Guangdong region flourished as an international trading center. The Tuen Mun
region in what is now Hong Kong's New Territories served as a port, naval base, salt production centre and later,
base for the exploitation of pearls. Lantau Island was also the salt production centre where the salt smugglers
riots broke out against the government.

In 1276 during the Mongol invasion, the Southern Song Dynasty court moved to Fujian, then to Lantau Island and
later to today's Kowloon City, but the child emperor, Zhao Bing, after being defeated in the Battle of Yamen,
committed suicide by drowning with his officials. Tung Chung valley, named after a hero who gave up his life for
the emperor, is believed to have been a base for the court. Hau Wong, an official of the emperor is still
worshipped in Hong Kong today.
However, during the Mongol period, Hong Kong saw its first population boom as Chinese refugees entered the area. The main reason for
them to enter Hong Kong was because of wars, famines and some groups even came here to find jobs. Five clans of Hau (Hou, 候), Tang
(Deng, 鄧), Pang (Peng, 彭) and Liu (Liao, 廖) and Man (Wen, 文) were claimed to be the Punti (本地人) from Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangxi in
China. Despite the immigration and light development of agriculture, the area was hilly and relatively barren. People had to rely on salt, pearl
and fishery trades to produce income. Some clans built walled villages to protect themselves from the threat of bandits, rival clans and wild
animals. The famous Chinese pirate Cheung Po Tsai also had many legendary stories in Hong Kong.

The last dynasty in China, Qing Dynasty, would also be the last to come in contact with Hong Kong. As a military outpost and trading port, the
Hong Kong territory would gain the attention of the world.
Colonial Hong Kong Era (1800s - 1930s)
Main article: History of Colonial Hong Kong (1800s - 1930s)

By the early 19th century, the British Empire trade was heavily dependent upon the importation of tea
from China. While the British exported to China luxurious items like clocks and watches, there was
an overwhelming imbalance between the trades. China developed a strong demand for silver, which
was a difficult commodity to come by in large quantities for the British. The counterbalance of trades
came with illegal opium entering China. Lin Zexu would become the Chinese commissioner who
voiced to Queen Victoria the Qing state's opposition to the unlawful opium trade. It resulted in the
Opium Wars, which led to British victories over China and the cession of Hong Kong to the United
Kingdom via the enactment of the new treaties in 1842.
1888 German map of Hong Kong,
Macau, and Canton (now Guangzhou)
Date                                                 Treaty                                                Result
January 25, 1841         Convention of Chuenpeh         Preliminary cession of Hong Kong Island to the   
                                                                                              United Kingdom
August 29, 1842           Treaty of Nanjing                       Cession of Hong Kong Island, founded as a         
                                                                                               crown colony of the United Kingdom
October 18, 1860         Convention of Beijing                Cession of Kowloon (south of Boundary Street)
July 1, 1898 Second    Convention of Beijing                Lease of the New Territories (including New        
                                                                                                Kowloon)
The Treaty of Peking
In April 1899, the residence in Kam Tin (錦田) rebelled the ruling of the British Colonial. They defensed themselves in Kat Hing
Wai (吉慶圍), a walled village. After several unsuccessful attack by the British troops, iron gate was blast open. The gate was then
shipped to London for exhibition. Under the demand of the Tang (鄧) clan in 1924, the gate was eventually returned in 1925 by the
16th governor, Sir Reginald Stubbs(司徒拔爵士).

After the territorial settlements, the achievements of the era set the foundation for the culture and commerce in modern Hong
Kong for years to come. The territory's commercial and industry transitioned in numerous ways: Hong Kong and China Gas
Company to the first electric company; Rickshaws transited to bus; ferries, trams and airline,[2] there was no shortage of
improvements. Every industry went through major transformation and growth. Other vital establishments included changes in
philosophy, starting with a western-style education with Frederick Stewart,[3] which was a critical step in separating Hong Kong
from mainland China during the political turmoil associated with the falling Qing dynasty. The monumental start of the financial
powerhouse industry of the far east began with the first large scale bank.[4]

The period is also challenged by the onslaught of the Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague, which resulted in the creation of Peak
Reservation Ordinance[5] and recognizing the importance of the first hospital. On the outbreak of World War I in 1914, fear of a
possible attack on the colony led to an exodus of 60,000 Chinese. Statistically Hong Kong's population continued to boom in the
following decades from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925. Nonetheless the crisis in mainland China in the 1920s and 1930s
left Hong Kong vulnerable to a strategic invasion from Japan.
Japanese Occupation Era (1940s)

Main articles: Battle of Hong Kong and Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong
Hong Kong was occupied by Japan from 25 December 1941 to 15 August 1945. The period, called '3 years and 8
months' halted the economy. The British, Canadians, Indians and the Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Forces
resisted the Japanese invasion commanded by Sakai Takashi which started on December 8, 1941, eight hours
after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese achieved air superiority on the first day of battle and the defensive
forces were outnumbered. The British and the Indians retreated from the Gin Drinker's Line and consequently
from Kowloon under heavy aerial bombardment and artillery barrage. Fierce fighting continued on Hong Kong
Island; the only reservoir was lost. Canadian Winnipeg Grenadiers fought at the crucial Wong Nai Chong Gap that
secured the passage between downtown and the secluded southern parts of the island.

On December 25, 1941 - which has gone down in history as Black Christmas to local people - British colonial
officials headed by the Governor of Hong Kong, Mark Aitchison Young, surrendered in person at the Japanese
headquarters on the third floor of the Peninsula Hotel. Isogai Rensuke became the first Japanese governor of
Hong Kong.

During the Japanese occupation, hyper-inflation and food rationing became the norm of daily lives. It became
unlawful to own Hong Kong Dollars, which were replaced by the Japanese Military Yen, a currency without
reserves issued by the Imperial Japanese Army administration. Some estimate that as many as 10,000 women
were raped in the first few days after Hong Kong's capture and large number of suspected dissidents were
executed. Philip Snow, a prominent historian of the period, said that the Japanese cut rations for civilians to
conserve food for soldiers, usually to starvation levels and deported many to famine- and disease-ridden areas of
the mainland. Most of the repatriated actually had come to Hong Kong just a few years earlier to flee the terror of
the Second Sino-Japanese War in mainland China.
By the end of the war in 1945, the population of Hong Kong shrunk to 600,000, less than half of the pre-war population of 1.6 million. The communist takeover of mainland China in 1949 led to another
population boom in Hong Kong. Thousands of refugees emigrated from mainland China to Hong Kong, and made it an important entrepôt until the United Nations ordered a trade embargo on
mainland China due to the Korean War. More refugees came during the Great Leap Forward.
Japanese soldiers marching along Queen's Road on Hong Kong Island in
December 1941.
Hong Kong, 1950s
Modern Hong Kong under British rule (1950s - 1997)

The 1950s
Main article: 1950s in Hong Kong
Skills and capital brought by refugees of Mainland China, especially from Shanghai, along with a vast pool of
cheap labor helped revive the economy. At the same time, many foreign firms relocated their offices from
Shanghai to Hong Kong. Enjoying unprecedented growth Hong Kong would transform from a territory of entrepôt
trade to industrial and manufacturing. The early industrial centers, where many of the workers spent the majority
of their days, turned out anything that could be produced with small space from buttons, artificial flowers,
umbrellas, textile, enamelware, footware to plastics.

Large squatter camps developed throughout the territory providing homes for the massive number of growing
immigrants. The camps, however, posed a fire and health hazard, leading to disasters like the Shek Kip Mei fire.
Governor Alexander Grantham responded with a "multi story buildings" plan as a standard. It was the beginning
of the high rise buildings. Conditions in public housing were very basic with several families sharing communal
cooking facilities. Other aspects of life would change as traditional cantonese opera began to overlap big screen
cinemas. The tourism industry would begin to formalize. North Point was known as "Little Shanghai" (小上海),
since in the minds of many, it has already become the replacement for the surrendered Shanghai in China.[6]
Hong Kong, 1960s
The 1960s
Main article: 1960s in
Hong Kong


The manufacturing
industry opened a new
decade utilizing large
portions of the
population. The period is
considered the first
turning point for Hong
Kong's economy. The
construction business
would also be revamped
with new detailed
guidelines for the first
time since World War II.
While Hong Kong started
out with a low GDP, it
would use the textile
industry as the
foundation to boost the
economy. China's
cultural revolution would
put Hong Kong on a new
political stage. Events
like the 1967 riot would
fill the streets with
home-made bombs and
chaos. Bomb disposal
experts from the police
and the British military
defused as many as
8,000 home-made
bombs. Statistics rated 1
in every 8 bombs were
genuine.[7]
Family values and Chinese tradition would be challenged like never before as people spent more time in the factories than at home. Other obstacles include water shortages, long working hours
coupled with extremely low wages were all trademarks of the era. The Hong Kong Flu of 1968 would infect 15% of the population.[8] Amidst all the struggle, "Made in Hong Kong" went from a label that
marked cheap low-grade products to a label that marked high-quality products.[9]
The 1970s

Main article: 1970s in Hong Kong

The 1970s also saw the extension of government subsidized education from six years to nine years and the
creation of Hong Kong's country parks system.

The opening of the mainland Chinese market and rising salaries drove many manufacturers north. Hong Kong
consolidated its position as a commercial and tourism centre in the South-East Asia region. High life expectancy,
literacy, per-capita income and other socioeconomic measures attest to Hong Kong's achievements over the last
four decades of the 20th Century. Higher income also led to the introduction of the first private housing estates
with Taikoo Shing. The period saw a boom in residential high rises, many of the people's homes became part of
Hong Kong's skyline and scenery.

In 1974, Murray McLehose founded ICAC, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, in order to combat
corruption within the police force. The extent of corruption was so widespread that a mass police petition took
place resisting prosecutions. Despite early opposition to the ICAC by the police force, Hong Kong was quite
successful in its anti-corruption efforts, eventually becoming one of the least corrupt societies in the world.
Hong Kong, 1970s
Hong Kong, 1980s
The 1980s

Main article: 1980s in Hong Kong

In 1982, the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, hoped that the increasing openness of the PRC
government and the economic reform in the mainland would allow the continuation of British rule. The resulting
meeting, led to the signing of Sino-British Joint Declaration and the proposal of the One country, two systems
concept by Deng Xiaoping. Political news dominated the media, while real estate took a major upswing. The
financial world would also be rattled by panics, leading to waves of policy changes and Black Saturday.
Meanwhile Hong Kong was now recognized as one of the most wealthy representatives of the far east. At the
same time, the warnings of the 1997 handover raised emigration statistics to an all new historical level. Many
would leave Hong Kong for United States, Canada, United Kingdom and any other destination with no communist
influence.

Hong Kong's Cinema would enjoy one paramount run that would put it on the international map. Some of the
biggest names included Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat. The music world also saw a new group of cantopop
stars like Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung. But everything seemed to be overshadowed by an uncertainty of the future.
Hong Kong, 1990s
The 1990s

Main articles: 1990s in Hong Kong and Transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong

On April 4, 1990, the Hong Kong Basic Law was officially accepted as the mini-constitution of the Hong Kong SAR
after the handover. The pro-Beijing bloc welcomed the Basic Law, calling it the most democratic legal system to
ever exist in the PRC. The pro-democratic bloc criticized it as not democratic enough. In July 1992, Chris Patten
was appointed as the last British Governor of Hong Kong. Patten had been Chairman of the Conservative Party in
the UK until he lost his parliamentary seat in the general election earlier that year. Relations with the PRC
government in Beijing became increasingly strained, as Patten introduced democratic reforms that increased the
number of elected members in the Legislative Council. This caused considerable annoyance to the PRC, which
saw this as a breach of the Basic Law. On July 1, 1997 Hong Kong was handed over to the People's Republic of
China by the United Kingdom. The old Legislative Council, elected under Chris Patten's reforms, was replaced by
the Provisional Legislative Council elected by a selection committee whose members were appointed by the
PRC government. Tung Chee Hwa, elected in December by a selection committee with members appointed by
the PRC government, assumed duty as the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
Unchanged after 1997

  1. English is still taught in all schools. However, many schools teach in Cantonese in
    parallel with Mandarin and English.
  2. The border with the mainland continued to be patrolled as before.
  3. Hong Kong remained an individual member of various international organizations, such
    as the IOC, APEC and WTO.
  4. Hong Kong continues to negotiate and maintain its own aviation bilateral treaties with
    foreign countries and territories. Flights between Hong Kong and China mainland are
    treated as international flights (or more commonly known as inter-territorial flights in
    China mainland).
  5. Hong Kong SAR passport holders have easier access to countries in Europe and North
    America, while mainland citizens do not. Citizens in mainland China can only apply for a
    visa to Hong Kong from the PRC Government. Many former colonial citizens can still use
    British National (Overseas) and British citizen passports after 1997. (Main article: British
    nationality law and Hong Kong)
  6. It continued to have more political freedoms than the mainland China, including freedom
    of the press.
  7. Cars in Hong Kong, unlike those in mainland China, continue to drive on the left.
  8. Electrical plugs (BS1363), TV transmissions (PAL-I) and many other technical standards
    from the United Kingdom are still utilised in Hong Kong. However, telephone companies
    ceased installing British Standard BS 6312 telephone sockets in Hong Kong. HK also
    adopts the digital TV standard devised in mainland China. (Main article: Technical
    standards in colonial Hong Kong)
  9. Hong Kong retains a separate international dialing code (852) and telephone numbering
    plan from that of the mainland. calls between Hong Kong and the mainland still require
    international dialling.
  10. The former British military drill, marching and words of command in English continued in
    all disciplinary services including all civil organizations. The PLA soldiers of the Chinese
    Garrison in Hong Kong have their own drills and Mandarin words of command.
  11. All statues of British monarchs like Queen Victoria and King George remain.
  12. Road names like "Queen's Road", "King's Road" remain.
Changed after 1997

  1. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong is now elected by a selection committee with 800
    members, who mainly are elected from among professional sectors and pro-Chinese
    business in Hong Kong. The governor was appointed by the United Kingdom.
  2. All public offices now fly the flags of the PRC and the Hong Kong SAR. The Union Flag
    now flies only outside the British Consulate-General and other British premises.
  3. Queen Elizabeth II's portrait disappeared from banknotes, postage stamps and public
    offices. As of 2007, some pre-1997 coins and banknotes are still legal tenders and are in
    circulation.
  4. The 'Royal' title was dropped from almost all organisations that had been granted it, with
    the exception of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.
  5. Legal references to the 'Crown' were replaced by references to the 'State', and barristers
    who had been appointed Queen's Counsel would now be known as Senior Counsel.
  6. Public holidays changed, with the Queen's Official Birthday and other British-inspired
    occasions being replaced by PRC National Day and Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day.
  7. All the red Royal Mail pillar boxes were removed from the streets of Hong Kong and
    replaced by green Hongkong Post boxes.
  8. British citizens (without right of abode in HK) are no longer able to work in Hong Kong for
    one year without a visa; the policy was changed on April 1, 1997.
  9. Secondary education will move away from the English model of five years secondary
    schooling plus two years of university matriculation to the Chinese model of three years
    of junior secondary plus another three years of senior secondary. University education
    extends from three years to four.
Hong Kong, 2000s
Flag of Hong Kong
Modern Hong Kong
under China (post 1997
- Present)

The 2000s

Main article: 2000s in
Hong Kong

The new millennium
signalled a series of
events. A sizeable
portion of the population
that was previously
against the handover
found itself living with the
adjustments. Article 23
became a controversy,
and led to a marches in
different parts of Hong
Kong with as many as
750,000 people out of a
population of
approximately 6,800,000
at the time. The
government also dealt
with the SARS outbreak
in 2003. Other health
crisis such as the Bird
Flu Pandemic (H5N1)
gained momentum from
the late 90s, and led to
the disposal of millions
of chicken and poultry.
The slaughtering put
Hong Kong at the center
of global discussions. At
the same time, the
economy is trying to
rebound fiscally. Hong
Kong Disneyland was
also introduced in the
much turbulent time. In a
very short time, the
political climate heated
up and the Chief
Executive position would
be challenged culturally,
politically and
managerially.
See also

History of China (timeline)
History of the People's Republic of China
British Empire
British nationality law and Hong Kong
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (1801-1854)
Secretary of State for the Colonies (1768-1782 and 1854-1966)
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (1966-1968)
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (since
1968)
Governor of Hong Kong
Declared monuments of Hong Kong
Museums in Hong Kong

Further reading
Linda Butenhoff: Social movements and political reform in
Hong Kong, Westport, Conn. [u.a.] : Praeger 1999,
ISBN
0-275-96293-8
References

^ CIA gov. "CIA." HK GDP 2004. Retrieved on 2007-03-06.
^ Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced
2003). Old Hong Kong - Volume One. Central, Hong Kong: Text
Form Asia books Ltd. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-59-2
^ Bickley, Gillian. [1997](1997). The Golden Needle: The
Biography of Frederick Stewart (1836-1889). Hong Kong.
ISBN
962-8027085
^ Lim, Patricia. [2002] (2002). Discovering Hong Hong's Cultural
Heritage. Central, Hong Kong: Oxford University Press. ISBN
Volume One 0-19-592723-0
^ [
Jason] (2002). Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island. Hong
Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 74-75.
ISBN 9622095631.  
^ Wordie, Jason. [2002] (2002) Streets: Exploring Hong Kong
Island. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
ISBN
962-2095631
^ Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced
2003). Old Hong Kong - Volume Three. Central, Hong Kong:
Text Form Asia books Ltd. Page 12. ISBN Volume Three
962-7283-61-4
^ Starling, Arthur. [2006] (2006) Plague, SARS, and the Story of
Medicine in Hong Kong. HK University Press.
ISBN 9622098053
^ Buckley, Roger. [1997] (1997). Hong Kong: The Road to 1997
By Roger Buckley. Cambridge University Press.
ISBN
0521469791
External links

Hong Kong portal
Hong Kong Museum of History website
A speech script on history of Hong Kong
Bibliography of Hong Kong Archaeology on the University of
Hong Kong website
"Story of the Stanford family and the effect of the fall of Hong
Kong in 1941."
Basic Law Drafting History Online -University of Hong Kong
Libraries, Digital Initiatives
Historical Laws of Hong Kong Online - University of Hong Kong
Libraries, Digital Initiatives
Sidney C. H. Cheung,
Martyrs, Mystery and Memory Behind the
Colonial Shift - Anti-British resistance movement in 1899
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