Hong Kong: History

The Pearl of the Orient

Hong Kong History

Hong Kong was first settled as early as the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic era; the area's first recorded European visitor was Jorge Alvares, a Portuguese mariner in 1513. The name Hong Kong never appeared on a written record until the Treaty of Nanking of 1842.

The treaty of Nanking was the result of the First Opium War between China and Great Britain in 1839. The Qing Dynasty refused to import opium. British forces occupied Hong Kong Island, which was formally ceded to Britain. The British established a Crown Colony with Victoria City as its capital. In 1860, after China's defeat in the Second Opium War, Kowloon Peninsula was ceded to Britain under the Convention of Peking. In 1898 Britain obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the adjacent northern lands, which became known as the New Territories.

Hong Kong under British rule served as an important trading post until 1941 when Japanese troops invaded Hong Kong and took control in the Battle of Hong Kong during the Second World War.
Hong Kong lost more than half of its population in the period between Japan's invasion and surrender in 1945. The United Kingdom resumed control of the colony and saw an influx of migrants seeking refuge from China's Civil War and the introduction of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Hong Kong became an important mediator between the Chinese communist government and the Western world.

Hong Kong increasingly industrialized, and the population soared. By the late 20th century Hong Kong was a world leading financial and banking centre.

Nearing the end of Britain's 99 year lease over Hong Kong, the territory was once and for all handed over to the People's Republic of China in 1997. Hong Kong, however, in the agreement was to be governed as a special administrative region retaining its laws and a good deal of its autonomy. Hong Kong has been affected since 1997 by financial crisis, avian influenza, and SARS, but still serves successfully as a global financial centre.