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Hong Kong

March 13, 2015, 09:49, views: 456

Hong Kong, officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a city on the southern coast of China at the Pearl River Estuary and the South China Sea. Hong Kong is well known for its expansive skyline, deep natural harbour and extreme population density (some seven million inhabitants over a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi)). The current population of Hong Kong comprises 93.6% ethnic Chinese. A major part of Hong Kong’s Cantonese-speaking majority originated from the neighbouring Canton province (now Guangdong), from where skilled labour fled after the communist government took over China in 1949 and subsequently purged its population during the 1960s.

After China’s defeat in the First Opium War (1839–42) against the British Empire, Hong Kong became a British colony with the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island, followed by Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. After it was occupied by Japan during the Second World War (1941–45), the British resumed control until 30 June 1997. As a result of the negotiations between China and Britain, Hong Kong was transferred to the People’s Republic of China under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The city became China’s first Special Administrative Region on 1 July 1997 under the principle of “one country, two systems”.

Hong Kong

Towards the late 1970s, Hong Kong became established as a major entrepôt between the world and China. The city has developed into a major global trade hub and financial centre, and is regarded as a world city and one of the eight Alpha+ cities. It ranked fifth on the 2014 Global Cities Index after New York City, London, Tokyo and Paris. The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and the most severe income inequality among the advanced economies. It has a high Human Development Index and is ranked highly in the Global Competitiveness Report. Hong Kong is the third most important financial centre after New York and London. The service economy, characterised by low taxation and free trade, has been regarded as one of the world’s most laissez-faire economic policies, and the currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the 13th most traded currency in the world.

Limited flat land created a necessity for dense infrastructure, and the city became a centre of modern architecture, earning Hong Kong the title of the world’s most vertical city. Hong Kong has a highly developed public transportation network and 90 percent of the population, the highest rate in the world, relies on mass transit by road or rail. Air pollution remains a serious problem. Loose emissions standards have resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates.

Pre-British Hong Kong

Archaeological studies support human presence in the Chek Lap Kok area (now Hong Kong International Airport) from 35,000 to 39,000 years ago and on Sai Kung Peninsula from 6,000 years ago.

Wong Tei Tung and Three Fathoms Cove are the earliest sites of human habitation in Hong Kong during the Paleolithic Period. It is believed that the Three Fathom Cove was a river-valley settlement and Wong Tei Tung was a lithic manufacturing site. Excavated Neolithic artefacts suggested cultural differences from the Longshan culture of northern China and settlement by the Che people, prior to the migration of the Baiyue (Viets) to Hong Kong. Eight petroglyphs, which dated to the Shang dynasty in China, were discovered on the surrounding islands.

Ancient China

In 214 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, conquered the Baiyue tribes in Jiaozhi (modern Liangguang region and Vietnam) and incorporated the territory into imperial China for the first time. Modern Hong Kong was assigned to the Nanhai commandery (modern Nanhai District), near the commandery’s capital city Panyu.

The area of Hong Kong was consolidated under the kingdom of Nanyue (Southern Viet), founded by general Zhao Tuo in 204 BC after the collapse of the short-lived Qin dynasty. When the kingdom of Nanyue was conquered by the Han Dynasty in 111 BC, Hong Kong was assigned to the Jiaozhi commandery. Archaeological evidence indicates that the population increased and early salt production flourished in this time period. Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb on the Kowloon Peninsula is believed to have been built during the Han dynasty.

Under the Tang dynasty, the Guangdong (Canton) region flourished as a regional trading centre. In 736 AD, the first Emperor of Tang established a military stronghold in Tuen Mun, western Hong Kong, to defend the coastal area of the region. The first village school, Li Ying College, was established around 1075 AD in the modern-day New Territories under the Northern Song dynasty. During the Mongol invasion in 1276, the Southern Song dynasty, an extension to Northern Song, moved their court to Fujian. After their defeat by the Mongols, the Southern Song court moved to Lantau Island and to the modern-day Kowloon City (a place named Sung Wong Toi as a memorial), where the child Emperor Bing and his officials escaped by boat and were drowned following the defeat in the Battle of Yamen. Hau Wong, an official of the late emperor, is still worshipped by a small number of Hong Kong residents today.

Voyages of Discovery

The earliest European visitor on record was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer who arrived in 1513. After establishing settlements in the region, Portuguese merchants began trading in southern China. At the same time, they invaded Hong Kong and built up military fortifications in Tuen Mun. The subsequent military clashes between China and Portugal, however, led to the expulsion of all Portuguese merchants.

In the mid-16th century, the Haijin order (closed-door, isolation policy) was enforced and it strictly forbade all maritime activities in order to prevent contact from foreigners by sea. This policy was effective since Chinese emperors exercised absolute powers over their citizens. From 1661 to 1669, Hong Kong was directly affected by the Great Clearance of Kangxi Emperor, who required the evacuation of coastal areas of Canton (Guangdong). About 16,000 people from Hong Kong and Bao’an County were forced to emigrate inland; only 1,648 of those who evacuated were said to have returned after the evacuation was rescinded in 1669.

British Crown Colony: 1842-1941

In 1839, the refusal of Qing-dynasty authorities to support opium imports caused the outbreak of the First Opium War between Britain and China. China’s defeat resulted in the occupation of Hong Kong Island by British forces on 20 January 1841. It was initially ceded under the Convention of Chuenpee, as part of a ceasefire agreement between Captain Charles Elliot and Governor Qishan. This agreement, however was never ratified due to a dispute between high-ranking officials of both countries.

On 29 August 1842, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Treaty of Nanking. The British officially established a Crown colony and founded the City of Victoria in the following year.

The population of Hong Kong Island was 7,450 when the Union Flag raised over Possession Point on 26 January 1841. It mostly consisted of Tanka fishermen and Hakka charcoal burners, whose settlements scattered along several coastal hamlets. In the 1850s, a large number of Chinese immigrants crossed the then-free border to escape from the Taiping Rebellion. Other natural disasters, such as flooding, typhoons and famine in mainland China would play a role in establishing Hong Kong as a place for safe shelter.

Addition of Kowloon: 1860

Following further conflicts over opium trade between Britain and China, several murders in the province of West Canton (now Guangxi) quickly escalated into a full-scale war, the Second Opium War. The Anglo-French victory expanded the Crown Colony to the Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street) and Stonecutter’s Island. Both areas were ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Convention of Beijing.

According to the 1865 Census, Hong Kong had a population of 125,504, of which some 2,000 were Americans and Europeans. In 1894, the deadly Third Pandemic of bubonic plague spread from China to Hong Kong. It caused around 50,000 to 100,000 deaths in the Crown Colony. Almost 15% to 25% of the population vanished after the plague. Given the city’s status as the free-trade center of East Asia, its role as a conduit for disease as well as trade caused widespread anxiety.

Free port of Victoria City

The establishment of free port turned Hong Kong into a major entrepôt, attracting new immigrants to settle from China and Europe alike. The society, however, remained racially segregated and polarised under the British colonial policies. Despite the rise of a British-educated Chinese upper-class by the late-19th century, race laws such as the Peak Reservation Ordinance prevented ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong from acquiring houses in reserved areas, such as the Victoria Peak.

At this time, the majority of the Chinese population in Hong Kong had no political representation in the British colonial government. There were, however, a small number of Chinese elites whom the British governors relied on, such as Sir Kai Ho and Robert Hotung. They served as communicators and mediators between the government and local population. Sir Kai Ho later became an unofficial member of the Legislative Council. Robert Hotung was a millionaire with huge financial influence in the Crown Colony.

New Territories: 99 years of lease

In 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease from China from the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, in which Hong Kong obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the area north of Boundary Street in Kowloon up to Shenzhen River. Governor Henry Arthur Blake oversaw the addition of the ‘New Territories’, Lantau and Surrounding Islands in 1898.

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Jasper Walker say

2015-03-15 01:40

We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained. –Marie Curie

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Darcy Taylor say

2015-03-15 01:49

The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself–the invisible battles inside all of us–that’s where it’s at. –Jesse Owens

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Jonathan Hall say

2015-03-15 01:33

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me. –Erma Bombeck

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Logan Campbell say

2015-03-15 01:24

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. –Chinese Proverb

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Flynn Edwards say

2015-03-15 01:14

I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse. –Florence Nightingale

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Logan Campbell say

2015-03-15 01:24

The mind is everything. What you think you become. –Buddha

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Flynn Edwards say

2015-03-15 01:13

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost

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Dmitry Richerson

Registered on March 13, 2015
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Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. - Buddha

Darcy Taylor, March 18, 2015, 10:23

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost

Stephen Smith, March 16, 2015, 10:12

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. - Buddha

Dmitry Richerson, April 5, 2015, 1:41

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