History of Hong Kong - The City with a Golden Past and a Promising Future

Hong Kong, which now houses the world's numbers of largest skyscrapers was a former primitive land of the semi coastal people, adept in rice cultivation, fishing and farming in the history of Hong Kong. Starting as a small region with a scarce population, situated at the confluence of Pearl river delta and the South China Sea, Hong Kong, now is one of the world's leading global financial hubs. With an incredibly turbulent but enriched history, this developed cosmopolitan city on the southeastern coast of China is now an emerging tourist destination, around the world. 

Ancient Hong Kong

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With a romanised name of 'He - ong- Kong' meaning Fragrant Harbour, this territory existed right from the neolithic age. Early signs of farming were witnessed in the former history of Hong Kong. It is believed that the early descendants practised cosmology which can be ascertained from the rock carvings found in different sites of Lamma and Lantau islands. 
Between 25 AD to 220 AD, the Eastern Han dynasty in this region expanded the Chinese rule. It was during this time that the five major clans of the area came into being one after the other. The five families - Tang, Hau, Pang, Liu and Man started their habitation in this territory along with many other clans, by the end of the sixteenth century.

Initial Chinese Empire - Qin Dynasty

The first dynasty in imperial China was the Qin dynasty, headed by Qin Shi Huang. Hong Kong has witnessed vivid rulers over the passing centuries, starting with the Qins. The present area covering Hong Kong was a part of Nuyanu Kingdom during the third century B.C. Under the umbrella of the Qin dynasty, this was an undeclared part of China from thereon. During this time in the history of Hong Kong, the territory was under the Panyu County. 

Quin Rule's Era

With new dynasties coming into power in imperial China in different centuries, it was during the Mongol invasion that immigration from mainland China started in this territory due to war and famine. Major clans started their habitation in this inlet, involving into works like salt production, pearl trading and fishery trading. While the Mongol period was gradually coming to an end, the Ming dynasty reigned over China. Preceded by the Quin dynasty, also known as the Great Qing, was the final dynasty to leave China under the Xin'an County before British colonialism and ultimately becoming the People's Republic of China. From 1644 to 1911, the fifth most extensive expire in the world, the Qing dynasty stayed in this region.

British Colonization 

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By the start of the nineteenth century, British imperialism in this territory existed in a full-fledged manner. Being excessively dependent on the import of tea from China to European countries, British trade in this region was growing at a much faster pace. Soon after, an imbalance in trade started to happen in greater parts of China with the British East India company. To take into account the imbalance, the Britishers took a clever move. With China having an abundance of silver with them, the British traders offered opium to China, which China needed. To buy opium, the rich resources of China's silver was draining off from the region along with another severe consequence of the increasing spread of opium addiction in the entire region. It was during this time the Chinese emperor Chia Ch'ing put a ban over opium trade in China, followed by his son Tao Kuang banning it in Whampoa and Macau, later as well.

The Opium Wars 

Second Opium War
First Opium War
Soon after opium was declared illegal in the land, the battlefield for waging the two subsequent Opium wars was getting ready. Ever after illegal opium trading, British traders were smuggling opium from India to China. Even Turkey played a vital role in the smuggling scene to China. Thus started the First Opium war in 1939 up to 1942 due to opium smuggling, financial reparations leading to the implementation of the Treaty of Nanking. This treaty helped China to form five treaty ports in the territory of Hong Kong and also surrounding it with smaller islands. 

Second Opium War
The second opium war took place in 1956 and continued till 1960. This time, the French force also helped British hands in continuing war with China. The consequence of the second opium war, also known as the Anglo-French Wars, further weakened the former decision on the opium trade, leading to the formation of new trade ports for the European commencement. 

Japanese Hold During WW2

Throughout the history of Hong Kong, the territory has gone through a phase of three years eight months in Japanese imperialism, as well. This event took place in 1941 and continued until the Second World War in 1945 when Hong Kong was taken by the British and Chinese troops. When Japan took over Hong Kong in 1941, the Governor of Hong Kong (HK) , Sir Mark Young fought a vicious battle with Japan, losing HK to them. Marked with ruthless execution of population, torture, hyperinflation and other problems, imperial Japanese even did not allow the usage of Hong Kong currency in the territory in their tenure, even.

Hong Kong as a British Colony

For more than a century, HK was a part of the British dependent colony. From 1841 to 1997, except for the 3 years when the region was under Japan colonialism, HK continued to be a part of the UK's colonial property. When World War II was coming to an end, at the time of the Second Opium war in China, Britain obtained the lease of HK region for the coming years. This obstructed China to get hold of Hong Kong for the mentioned years. From 1997 onwards, Hong Kong finally came under the One Country, Two Systems regime in China upto 2047.

Increase in Hong Kong Population

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Since the dawn of Hong Kong, the territory has seen a huge surge in population, especially the increase in the refugee population, down the years. With the end of the Chinese Civil war, a jump in population from 60,0000 to 2.1 million was witnessed from 1945 to 1951, just in a span of 6 years. Ethnically belonging to the Han Chinese, after the end of World War II, Hong Kong has a population diversity with people from all over the country. Currently, with the change in the legal systems made in HK in allowance of asylum and torture claims mandated by local HK courts, more refugees especially from South East Asia have flocked up in this region.

Sino-British Joint Declaration

With the gradual decay of the ninety-nine-year-old lease between China and the UK set under the conditions of Conventions of Peking, the Sino British joint declaration came into existence from 1997 and is bound to continue up to 2047. This international treaty, determining the fate of Hong Kong for the coming fifty years after 1997, was decided in Beijing in 1984 in consultation with the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This declaration vividly declines the practice of the socialist system and policies of PRC in the territory of Hong Kong. Thus, abiding by the capitalist policies and the basic rights that the region enjoyed will continue to exist now, until the end of 2047, which the declaration ascertains.

Handover of Hong Kong and The HK Basic Law

The year 1997 is marked as a year of prominence for the people living in Hong Kong when the ninety-nine-year-old lease of the UK's hold on Hong Kong came to an end. Being decided as the most democratic legal system existing in the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR) was introduced along with the 160 articles long the Basic Law for the region. The law had provisions, keeping in mind the conditions of the Sino-British declaration, coming into effect from 1997.

The HK Basic Law and the Controversial Article 23

The HK Basic law brought in the region many changes relating to fundamental rights and duties, political structure, external affairs and also general principles. One such article which is now an uproar in the region is Article 23 of the Basic Law (B.L. 23). The law had provisions to allow HKSAR to enact laws relating to matters of treason, secession, sedition, subversion and so on. To implement this article, a bill was introduced named as the National security Bill 2003, which was resisted by the entire population on July 1, 2003. This uproar in the history of Hong Kong happened when the region was already undergoing a gloomy situation due to the breakthrough of the dangerous respiratory syndrome, taking a toll of 300, at once.

Hong Kong Independence Movement

Hong Kong Independence Movement
The year 2019 saw the introduction of the Honk Kong Extradition bill leading to unrest in the entire territory, initiating a battle with an urge to build an independent Hong Kong. With an air of uncertainty, Hong Kong is not sure of the status it will receive after 2047 with the expiration of the Basic Laws implemented in the territory. This former British colony, now under the arena of China, has started their own independence movement from 2014, demanding sovereignty from the encroaching behaviour of Beijing, as Hong Kong says. HK independence movement also looks forward to the failure of 'One country, two systems' approach, demanding the prevalence of Hong Kong's own identity in future, in a full-fledged manner.

Constant Political Unrest

When Hong Kong left the title of British colonial rule, it came under the hands of PRC for another fifty years, under the 'one country two systems' policy. Although pre-decided under the Basic Law which is implemented in the land of Hong Kong, yet constant unrest is now seen in HK. While it is said that Beijing will not interfere in the affair, the law seems to 8 weaken over the years, inviting mass protests over political dysfunction. Although the pro-democracy supporters now are in a slightly peaceful situation in the history of Hong Kong, the uncertainty of the region's future, lingering in the minds of its citizens can initiate unrest anytime and anywhere.

Modern Hong Kong Scenario

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With tall skyscrapers surrounding the entire region of Hong Kong, HK is now a colourful and vibrant city with excellent living standards. With 115 consulates of vivid countries, HK in spite of being so developed yet has 40% of its region dedicated to parks, like no other city in the world. 

Implementing the lowest tax rate amongst all the countries of entire Asia, HK is ruling the financial centres in the world. An amalgamation of the West and the East, HK's ambience is changing, though. The constant unrest, the encroachment of Beijing, demands of residents - everything is making Hong Kong unpeaceful. This glittering city now anticipates a future which will be hopeful, a future which will help Hong Kong live a glorious life.

This post was published by Sreyashi Paul

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