The territory that now comprisesHong Kong was incorporated into China during the Qin Dynasty(221 BC – 206 BC), and the area was firmly consolidated underNanyue (203 BC – 111 BC.) Archaeological evidence indicates that the population increased since the Han Dynasty(206 BC – AD 220).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 Territoriesserved as a port, naval base, salt production centre and later, base for the exploitation of pearls. Lantau Island was also a 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 toFujian, then to Lantau Island and later to today's Kowloon City. Emperor Huaizong of Song, the last Song Dynasty emperor, was enthroned at Mui Wo on Lantau Island on 10 May 1278 at the age of 8..
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 and famines, and some groups even went there to find jobs. Fiveclans of Hau (侯), Tang (鄧), Pang (彭) and Liu (廖) and Man (文) lived mostly in theNew Territories were Punti (Locals, 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 was legendary in Hong Kong.
The last dynasty in China, Qing Dynasty, was also the last to come in contact with Hong Kong. As a military outpost and trading port, the Hong Kong territory later gained the attention of the world.
Colonial Hong Kong era (1800s – 1930s)
|20 January 1841||Convention of Chuenpee||Preliminary cession ofHong Kong Island to the United Kingdom|
|29 August 1842||Treaty of Nanjing||Cession of Hong Kong Island, founded as a crown colony of the United Kingdom|
|18 October 1860||Convention of Beijing||Cession of Kowloon(south of Boundary Street)|
|1 July 1898||Second Convention of Beijing||Lease of the New Territories (includingNew Kowloon)|
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 luxury items like clocks and watches, there remained an overwhelming imbalance in trade. China developed a strong demand for silver, which was a difficult commodity for the British to come by in large quantities. The counterbalance of trade came with exports of opium to China, opium being legal in Britain and grown in significant quantities in the UK, and later in far greater quantities in India.
A Chinese commissioner Lin Zexu voiced to Queen Victoria the Qing state's opposition to the opium trade. It resulted in the First Opium War, 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.
Christian missionaries founded numerous schools and churches in Hong Kong. St. Stephen’s Anglican Church located in West Point was founded by the Church Missionary Society (Church Mission Society)(CMS) in 1865. Ying Wa Girls' Sc located in Mid-levels was founded by the London Missionary Societyin 1900. The Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese was founded by the London Missionary Society in 1887, with its first graduate (in 1892) being Sun Yat-sen . The Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese was the forerunner of the School of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, which started in 1911.
Along with fellow students Yeung Hok-ling, Chan Siu-bak and Yau Lit, Sun Yat-senstarted to promote the thought of overthrowing the Qing Government while he studied in the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese . The four students were known by the Qing Government as the Four Bandits. Sun attended To Tsai Church , founded by the London Missionary Society in 1888) while he studied in this College. Later Sun led the Chinese Revolution (1911), which changed China from an empire to a republic.
In April 1899, the residents of Kam Tin rebelled against the rule of the British colonial government. They defended themselves in Kat Hing Wai , a walled village. After several unsuccessful attacks by the British troops, the iron gate was blasted open. The gate was then shipped to London for exhibition. Under the demand of the Tang clan in 1924, the gate was eventually returned in 1925 by the 16th governor, Sir Reginald Stubbs
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 commerce and industry transitioned in numerous ways: Hong Kong and China Gas Company to the first electric company; Rickshaws transited to bus, ferries, tramsand airline, 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, 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.
In the same period there was the onslaught of the Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague, which provided the pretext for racial zoning with the creation of Peak Reservation Ordinance and recognising 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 Imperial Japan.
Japanese occupation era (1940s)
Hong Kong was occupied by Japan from 23 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 Defence Forces resisted the Japanese invasion commanded by Sakai Takashi which started on 8 December 1941, eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan 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 fromKowloon 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, which was the passage between the north and the secluded southern parts of the island.
On 25 December 1941, referred to as Black Christmas by locals, 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 thePeninsula 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 theImperial Japanese Army administration. According to eye witness reports a large number of suspected dissidents were executed and estimates have been made that as many as 10,000 girls and women were raped in the month following Japanese victory. This figure includes several European women who were also victimized in the frenzy including four British nurses who were raped. The Japanese occupation forces cut rations for civilians, usually to starvation levels, in order to conserve food for their own soldiers. Many civilians were deported to famine and disease-ridden areas of the mainland. Most of those repatriated had come to Hong Kong just a few years earlier to flee the terror of the Second Sino-Japanese War in mainland China. The rationing system was cancelled in 1944.
By the end of the war in 1945, Hong Kong had been liberated by joint British and Chinese troops. The population of Hong Kong had shrunk to 600,000; less than half of the pre-war population of 1.6 million due to scarcity of food and emigration. The communist revolution in 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.
Post Japanese occupation
After the Second World War, the trend of decolonization swept across the world. Still, Britain chose to keep Hong Kong for strategic reasons. In order to consolidate her rule, some changes were made in response to the trend of decolonization so as to meet the needs of the people. The political and institutional system made only minimal changes due to the political instability in Mainland China at that time (aforementioned) which caused an influx of mainland residents to Hong Kong.
Modern Hong Kong under China (post-1997 – present)
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 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. A further health crisis, the Bird Flu Pandemic (H5N1) gained momentum from the late 90s, and led to the disposal of millions of chickens and other poultry. The slaughter put Hong Kong at the centre of global attention. At the same time, the economy tried to adjust fiscally. Within a short time, the political climate heated up and the Chief Executive position was challenged culturally, politically and managerially. Hong Kong Disneyland was also launched during this period.In 2009 Hong Kong suffered from another a flu pandemic which resulted in a school closure for two weeks.
Hong Kong's skyline has continued to evolve, with two new skyscrapers dominating. The 415 meter (1,362-foot) tall, 88 storey Two International Finance Centre, completed in 2003, previously Hong Kong's tallest building, has been eclipsed by the 484 meter (1,588-foot) tall, 118 storey International Commerce Centre in West Kowloon, which was topped-out in 2010 and remains the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong. Nine additional skyscrapers over 250 meters (825 feet) have also been completed during this time.