Official Name: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
Established: 29 August 1842 (Treaty of Nanking), 1 July 1997 (Transfer from the United Kingdom)
Population: 7,500,700 (2019 estimate)
Religion: Buddhism 20%, Confucianism 20%, and Taoism 20%, Christianity 12%, Islam 4%
Language(s): Chinese, English
Capital: Hong Kong
Order of Visit: Twenty-Eigthth
First Visit: 9 August 2006
Last Visit: 30 October 2018
Duration: 14 Days
Visit Highlights: Stanley Market, Victoria Peak, Sampans, Ladies Market, Disneyland, Giant Buddha (Po Lin monastery), Cathay Pacific First Class Lounges
Places Visited: Hong Kong
Hong Kong Journal Entries
History and Geography
Hong Kong is a metropolitan area and special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea having a high density with over 7.5 million residents located in a 1,104 square kilometres.
Earliest known human traces in Hong Kong are dated by some to 35,000 and 39,000 years ago during the Paleolithic period. During the Middle Neolithic period, about 6,000 years ago, the region had been widely occupied by humans. Neolithic to Bronze Age Hong Kong settlers were semi-coastal people.
The Qin dynasty incorporated the Hong Kong area into China for the first time in 214 BCE. During the Mongol conquest of China in the 13th century, the Southern Song court was briefly located in modern-day Kowloon City (the Sung Wong Toi site) before its final defeat in the 1279 Battle of Yamen. By the end of the Yuan dynasty, seven large families had settled in the region and owned most of the land. Settlers from nearby provinces migrated to Kowloon throughout the Ming dynasty.
After the Qing conquest, maritime trade was banned under the Haijin policies. The Kangxi Emperor lifted the prohibition, allowing foreigners to enter Chinese ports in 1684. Qing authorities established the Canton System in 1757 to regulate trade more strictly, restricting non-Russian ships to the port of Canton.
Although European demand for Chinese commodities like tea, silk, and porcelain was high, Chinese interest in European manufactured goods was insignificant, so that Chinese goods could only be bought with precious metals. To reduce the trade imbalance, the British sold large amounts of Indian opium to China. Faced with a drug crisis, Qing officials pursued ever more aggressive actions to halt the opium trade.
In 1839, the Daoguang Emperor rejected proposals to legalise and tax opium and ordered imperial commissioner Lin Zexu to eradicate the opium trade. The commissioner destroyed opium stockpiles and halted all foreign trade, triggering a British military response and the First Opium War. The Qing surrendered early in the war and ceded Hong Kong Island which then became a colony of the British Empire
The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898.
At the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Governor Geoffry Northcote declared Hong Kong a neutral zone to safeguard its status as a free port. The colonial government prepared for a possible attack, evacuating all British women and children in 1940. The Imperial Japanese Army attacked Hong Kong on 8 December 1941, the same morning as its attack on Pearl Harbor. Hong Kong was occupied by Japan for almost four years before Britain resumed control on 30 August 1945.
By the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre and shipping hub. Diplomatic negotiations with China resulted in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which the United Kingdom agreed to transfer the colony in 1997 and China would guarantee Hong Kong’s economic and political systems for 50 years after the transfer. Over half a million people left the territory during the peak migration period, from 1987 to 1996.
The Legislative Council became a fully elected legislature for the first time in 1995 and extensively expanded its functions and organisations throughout the last years of the colonial rule. Hong Kong was transferred to China on 1 July 1997, after 156 years of British rule.
Political debates after the transfer of sovereignty have centred around the region’s democratic development and the central government’s adherence to the “one country, two systems” principle. After reversal of the last colonial era Legislative Council democratic reforms following the handover.
What I experienced
Hong Kong is a very unusual place to visit officially being part of China but also separate with it’s own currency, laws, and visa and immigration requirements. A Chinese citizen faces restrictions on visiting Hong Kong highlighting the ‘two systems’ approach. For my longest visit in 2006 Hong Kong still had a strong United Kingdom influence but this has been reducing as the central government exerts more control. Every time I’ve visited Hong Kong I felt an energy highlighting the financial and transportation hub importance of this destination.
The markets can be chaotic and overwhelming but there isn’t much you can’t find to buy. Despite the large population for a small area there are some quiet and green areas in Hong Kong in particular Victoria Peak which is an important destination as it gives you a good view of Hong Kong. I also got a chance to visit Hong Kong Disneyland and really appreciate the strong emphasis on live shows which made for an enjoyable visit.
Hong Kong is a unique combination of Chinese and English heritage in one place. It was created by a colonial power (The United Kingdom) imposing it’s will over a sovereign country (China) which was trying to stop a dangerous drug epidemic the colonial power was causing. Still the United Kingdom did end up creating a dynamic colony which grow to be very powerful in this region of the world. Whether this remains in the long term is unknown but assuming it is safe Hong Kong is worth visiting and exploring even if only for a few days on a stopover to other countries including mainland China.