Now a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong was a once prominent British colony during its 99 year “lease” to the British between 1898 and 1997.
Hong Kong was first ceded to the British by the Qing Dynasty under the Treaty of Nanking after the First Opium War in 1839, which was the result of Imperial China’s refusal to import opium.
Between 1860 and 1898, further skirmishes and victories lead to Kowloon, Lantau and the “New Territories” of the southern mainland being added to the British colonial rule under a “lease”, which was signed for 99 years.
Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Hong Kong acted as a free port where goods could be imported and exported without paying import duties.
This established the region as a centre for trade between Britain and China leading to expatriates flocking to the area to set up their trading empires.
The wealthy expatriate “gwailo” (which means “white ghost” in Cantonese) traders often lived largely separate lives from the majority of the local Cantonese population.
Hong Kong was to change hands yet again – during the Second World War, Japan successfully invaded with the British and Canadian forces surrendering the territory on Christmas Day, 1941.
During the Japanese occupation, the population dropped from 1.6 million to only 600,000 by the end of the Second World War when it was returned to British rule.
Hong Kong then enjoyed an extraordinary period of growth, as it became a market leader in manufacturing and later as a global financial capital.
During the late 1980s, as the original Treaty of Nanking drew near its end, Britain and Hong Kong began negotiations on the return of the entire colony to Chinese rule.
Hong Kong was returned to China as a Special Administrative Region on 1st July 1997.