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The history of Hong Kong from pre-1800 till now

The history of Hong Kong makes it a battleground in the political world.


Hong Kong is home to over seven million people. The island has been struggling with pro-democracy issues for years. Last year, the political issue has finally brought up to the table as millions of citizens protested for political self-determination and personal autonomy. Hong Kong seems to be destined to face these challenges due to its history.

Hong Kong used to be a fishing town ruled by China in pre- 1800s. British businessman traded illegally smuggled opium from India for Chinese products such as tea and silks. Opium addiction has become a common social problem for China.

From 1839 to 1842, China tried to suppress the British’s opium trade by destroying the smuggled opium and penalize traffickers. The First Opium War began, leaving 520 casualties in British and over 20,000 Chinese casualties.

In 1842, the treat of Nanjing was signed by China and the British. Hong Kong island was permanently ceded to the British. China would not be allowed to control all three main regions of Hong Kong in the next 56 years.


In 1937, the Sino-Japanese War started as the Japanese army reached Hong Kong. Thousands of people from mainland China escaped to Hong Kong. Japanese then dropped serval bombs in Hong Kong territory. However, Hong Kong was protected from out-and-out war by its status as a British colony.

From 1941 to 1945, Japan invaded and occupied Hong Kong. In 1946, Britain regained its control over Hong Kong.

After years of development, Hong Kong has become a manufacturing hub and the standard of living climbs in the 1950s. Meanwhile, the problem of poor working conditions and inequality was increasing.


In 1984, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and China’s Premier Zhao Ziyang signed the Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong. It stated that China will continue its ruling in Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. Over 1 million people protested the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square during 1989. the massacre was worried about how China govern in Hong Kong. Anti-Communist sentiments grew.

Hong Kong had officially returned to China after over 150 years of British control. A Shanghai-born famous businessman named Tung Chee-hwa became the first chief executive in Hong Kong.

In 2003, million people protested to the launch of Article 23 which was a national security “anti-subversion” law that critics feared would curtail free speech. The bill was withdrawn but leave a mark for Hong Kong citizens.


The Chinese legislature ruled out open elections in Hong Kong in 2014. Candidates approved by Beijing was only allowed to run for the position of chief executive in Hong Kong. Another huge protest sparked against the claim.


Demonstrations and battles between police and pro-democracy protesters brought to Hong Kong. Protesters gathered in the international airport of Hong Kong, government buildings and tourist and shopping districts. They spoke out for their demand: Withdraw the extradition bill, conduct an inquiry into police brutality, stop characterizing the protests as “riots,” release those arrested, and provide more democratic freedoms.

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