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The Dynasties – From the early Han to the recent Qing

  • Understanding the development of Hong Kong is not easy without some basic facts about and knowledge of the many dynasties and the cultural impact they have had on the Chinese and the Hong Kong society throughout the years.
  • The Chinese dynasty era began in the Hong Kong region in 221 BC with the invasion of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. The Qin armies defeated the Yue tribes and incorporated Hong Kong into China. This was the beginning of the dominance of the Chinese dynasties. A Chinese general founded the kingdom of Nanyue and proclaimed himself king. The Nanyue kingdom was, though, conquered by the Han dynasty around 112 BC.
  • In the years to come the dynasties, most importantly the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD), the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD), the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and Quing dynasty (1644–1842), followed.
  • From 1661 to 1669 the Quing dynasty’s emperor ordered the Great Clearance implying that the coastal areas of Guangdong were evacuated and banned. In this way the Hong Kong region was depopulated at the time. Later, it was occupied by the Hakka people. In the New Territories there are still today numerous Hakka villages with descendants of the Hakkas.
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What Locations & Things to Do in Hong Kong

The Opium Wars

  • The British had a high demand for silk, porcelain and tea. In return they sold large quantities of Indian opium to China. However, the Chinese refused to legalise opium and this crisis triggered the First Opium War. Despite some disagreement, the Quing surrendered, and in 1842 Hong Kong Island was formally ceded to the United Kingdom in the Treaty of Nanking. The reign of Imperial China over Hong Kong ended and Hong Kong got its first governor, Henry Pottinger.
  • Nevertheless, tensions persisted between the British and the Quing over the opium trade and escalated into the Second Opium War. Again, the Quing were forced to surrender and ceded Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter’s Island in the Convention of Peking in 1860.
  • From here the Hong Kong economy developed rapidly with foreign investors seeing new opportunities in the country. Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories.

The Japanese Occupation

  • In 1937, at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Hong Kong was declared a neutral zone. A possible attack was foreseen, and all British women and children were evacuated in 1940. The Japanese Army attacked Hong Kong on 8 December 1941 which was the same day that Pearl Harbor was attacked. Hong Kong was now occupied by Japan. Britain only resumed control after four years, on 30 August 1945.

Facts about the political situation in Hong Kong in recent times

  • In the Sino-British Joint Declaration from 1984 United Kingdom agreed to transfer Hong Kong to China on 1 July 1997 after 156 years of British rule. China guaranteed to secure the economic and political system for another 50 years – ‘one country, two systems’. Anyway, a massive emigration started taking place, since many people didn’t trust their rights any longer.
  • Hong Kong has undergone several crises in recent years, both political and financial crises as well as crises owing to the outbreaks of avian-flu and the SARS epidemic. Since 2019 massive protests have taken place in response to a proposed bill permitting extradition of fugitives to mainland China.


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Facts about Hong Kong Travel Guide

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