Situated on the southeast coast of China, Hong Kong’s strategic location on the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea has made it one of the world’s most thriving and cosmopolitan cities.
Hong Kong as we know it today was born when China’s Qing dynasty government was defeated in the First Opium War in 1842, when it ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain. Within 60 years, Kowloon, the New Territories and 235 Outlying Islands were also leased to Britain. However, the history of the more than 1100 square kilometres that Hong Kong now occupies predates the events of the Qing dynasty by more than a thousand years. And, as you explore the city’s colourful heritage, you’ll discover stories of powerful clans, marauding pirates and European traders.
From its earliest days as a British colony, Hong Kong served as a centre of international trade. In the turbulent years of the early 20th century, the city’s population was bolstered by refugees, mostly from China. The arrival of immigrants in large numbers helped launch a new role for Hong Kong as a major manufacturing hub. It also brought economically stimulating energy and industry to the city’s character. In recent decades, as the economy of Mainland China has undergone a process of opening up, Hong Kong has transformed yet again – this time into a service-based economy as well as an important gateway to the world’s largest market.
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Under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. This arrangement allows the city to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, including retaining its capitalist system, independent judiciary and rule of law, free trade and freedom of speech.
A look at the city’s history could give a strong impression that change is the only constant here. However, despite all its reinventions, Hong Kong’s spirit has never changed. In fact, the same energy and dynamism that turned a group of sleepy fishing villages into a crossroads of international trade is now taking Asia’s world city into the 21st century. Experience that spirit and Hong Kong’s story yourself by exploring the city’s rich culture and heritage.
|700 BC||Aboriginal fishing communities establish floating communities.|
|50 BC||China absorbs the entire region.|
|AD 960 – 1500s||Clans settle the area and build walled villages as protection against bandits and pirates.|
|1514||Portuguese traders build a base in Tuen Mun.|
|Early 1800s||British merchants trade opium for Chinese silks, silver, spices and tea.|
|1840 – 42||Opium Wars result in China ceding Hong Kong Island in perpetuity to Britain; the Crown colony of Hong Kong is established.|
|1860||Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island are ceded to Britain.|
|1898||The New Territories are leased to Britain for 99 years; the colony becomes an important trading port.|
|1910||The Kowloon–Canton Railway to the border of China is completed.|
|1911 –1949||Refugees fleeing from political turbulence and warfare in Mainland China increase Hong Kong’s population.|
|1941 – 45||Japanese occupation during World War II.|
|1950 – 1970s||Immigrants from China create booming textile and light manufacturing industries; ‘Made in Hong Kong’ goods are exported all over the world.|
|1980s||Hong Kong becomes an international financial centre and joins the world’s top 10 economies.|
|1984||China and Britain sign the Sino–British Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong.|
|1997 (July 1)||Hong Kong becomes a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.|
|1998||Hong Kong International Airport opens at Chek Lap Kok and is named one of the Top Ten Construction Achievements in the 20th Century by the Construction Industry Manufacturers Association (CIMA) the following year.|
|2008||Hong Kong co-hosts the equestrian events of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games.|
|2011||Four Hong Kong festivals, including the Cheng Chau Bun Festival, Tai O Deities Parade, Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance, Yu Lan Ghost Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community were all included in China’s third national list of intangible culture under a UNESCO convention.|