Hong Kong

(Taken from Wikipedia)

China was the main supplier of its native tea to the British, whose annual domestic consumption reached 30,046,935 pounds (13,629,060 kg) in 1830, an average of 1.036 pounds (0.470 kg) per head of population. From the British economic standpoint, Chinese tea was a crucial item since it provided massive wealth for the taipans—foreign (especially British) businessmen in China—while the duty on tea accounted for 10% of the government’s income.

Since the ill-fated Macartney Mission of 1793, British diplomats resented performing kowtow as a form of obsequience to the Emperor of China. Many considered it a religious rite and although they insisted on being treated as equals, the British and other foreign nationals were seen by the Qing Emperor and court officials as uncivilised foreigners only there to acquire tea, silk and other Chinese goods. At the time, China’s social structure, as dictated by Confucian tradition, looked down on merchants, ranking them below farmers and above slaves, since they were considered citizens who only enriched themselves.

Some of the earliest items sold to China in exchange for tea were British clocks, watches and musical boxes known as “sing-songs”. These were not enough to compensate for the trade imbalance caused by the massive quantities of tea exported and the insistence by the Chinese that it be paid for in silver. After the 1757 territorial conquest of Bengal in India, the British had access to opium, which when mixed with water was used in western society as an analgesic tincture. The Chinese, on the other hand, smoked opium in an addictive narcotic manner. Since a large fiscal deficit existed in Bengal, opium exports became a British government means to raise tax, even though it meant an increase in the number of Chinese people addicted to the drug. Lin Zexu, a special Chinese commissioner appointed by the Qing Daoguang Emperor, wrote a letter to Queen Victoria in 1839 taking a stance against the acceptance of opium in trade. He confiscated more than 20,000 chests of opium already in Hong Kong and supervised their destruction.

The Queen saw the destruction of British products as an insult and sent the first expeditionary force to the region. The First Opium War (1839–1842) began at the hands of Captain Charles Elliot of the Royal Navy and Capt. Anthony Blaxland Stransham of the Royal Marines. After a series of Chinese defeats, Hong Kong Island was occupied by the British on 20 January 1841. Sir Edward Belcher, aboard HMS Sulphur, landed in Hong Kong on 25 January 1841. Possession Street still exists to mark the event. Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer raised the Union Jack and claimed Hong Kong as a colony on 26 January 1841. He erected naval store sheds there in April 1841.

The island was first used by the British as a staging post during the war, and while the East India Company intended to establish a permanent base on the island of Zhoushan, Elliot took it upon himself to claim the island on a permanent basis. The ostensible authority for the occupation was negotiated between Captain Eliot and the Viceroy of Liangguang, the Manchu official Qishan. The Convention of Chuenpi was concluded but had not been recognised by the Qing Dynasty court at Beijing. Subsequently, Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking, when the territory became a Crown colony.

The Opium War was ostensibly fought to liberalise trade with China. With a base in Hong Kong, British traders, opium dealers, and merchants including Jardine Matheson & Co. and Dent & Co. launched the city which would become the ‘free trade’ nexus of the East. American opium traders and merchant bankers such as the Russell, Perkins and Forbes families would soon join the trade. On signature of the 1860 Convention of Beijing, which marked the end of formal ended hostilities in the Second Opium War (1856–1858), Britain acquired the area south of Boundary Street on the Kowloon Peninsula rent-free under a perpetual lease. Later, in 1898, the Qing government reluctantly agreed to the Convention between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory (also known as the Second Convention of Peking) that compelled China to cede a further area north of Boundary Street to the Sham Chun River along with more than two hundred nearby islands. Seen by the British government as vital to safeguard the defensive capabilities of Hong Kong, these areas became collectively known as the New Territories. The 99-year lease would expire at midnight on 30 June, 1997.

When the union flag was raised over Possession Point on 26 January 1841, the population of Hong Kong island was about 7,450, mostly Tanka fishermen and Hakka charcoal burners living in a number of coastal villages. In the 1850s large numbers of Chinese would emigrate from China to Hong Kong due to the Taiping Rebellion. Other events such as floods, typhoons and famine in mainland China would also play a role in establishing Hong Kong as a place to escape the mayhem.

The establishment of the free port made Hong Kong a major entrepôt (French for warehouse) from the start, attracting people from China and Europe alike. The society remained racially segregated and polarized due to British colonial policies and attitudes. Despite the rise of a British-educated Chinese upper class by the late 19th century, race laws such as the Peak Reservation Ordinance prevented Chinese from living in elite areas like Victoria Peak. Politically, the majority Chinese population also had little to no official governmental influence throughout much of the early years. There were, however, a small number of Chinese elites that the British governors relied on, including Sir Kai Ho and Robert Hotung. They accepted their place in the Hong Kong hierarchy, and served as main communicators and mediators between the government and the Chinese population. Sir Kai Ho was an unofficial member of the Legislative Council. Robert Hotung wanted Chinese citizens to recognise Hong Kong as the new home after the fall of China’s last dynasty in 1911. As a millionaire with financial influence, he emphasised that no part of the demographics was purely indigenous.

Soon after the British occupied Hong Kong in 1841, Protestant and Catholic missionaries started to provide social service. Italian missionaries began to provide boy-only education to British and Chinese youth in 1843. “The Catholic French Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres” was one of the first orphanage and elderly home was established in 1848. In 1870 the Tung Wah Hospital became the first official hospital in Hong Kong. It handled much of the social services and was providing free vaccinations in Hong Kong Island and Kwang Tung. After raising funds for the 1877 famine in China, a number of the hospital officials became Tung Wah elites with much authority and power representing the Chinese majority. Some of the booming hotel businesses of the era included the Victoria Hotel, New Victoria Hotel and the King Edward Hotel.

According to the census of 1865, Hong Kong had a population of 125,504, of which some 2,000 were Americans and Europeans. In 1914 despite an exodus of 60,000 Chinese fearing an attack on the colony during World War I, Hong Kong’s population continued to increase from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925, to an estimated 1.1 million by 1935.

Below is some other information regarding Hong Kong. The first is a video about the British colony from 1938:

Here is a map showing the de facto capital, Victoria.


Hong Kong

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