Hong Kong quick facts
Full name: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (中華人民共和國香港特別行政區 in Cantonese — the last character, which looks like a little blueprint, means ‘region’ or ‘area’)
Official languages: Cantonese, English
Population: 6 million (95% of which Chinese)
Area: 1000 km²
The 19th century saw the British Empire expand towards the Far East, but they had a difficult time tackling China — while the Empire needed to import many things from the East, huge and self-sufficient China barely needed anything in return. It became apparent after a while that what the Chinese needed was opium — and the British could provide this in abundance. While its trade wasn’t legal, Chinese authorities turned a blind eye, and so the export of opium became a profitable business, up until the point when a Chinese official unexpectedly attempted to ban it. To show how ‘upset’ they were with the proceedings, the British declared war on China (this was the first Opium War), which ended in a peace in exchange for Hong Kong Island, which seemed a convenient base for Far Eastern trade. Two further conflicts ended in the Brits acquiring two more territories: neighbouring Kowloon Peninsula, and the so-called New Territories (the latter they only leased for 99 years, while the rest they acquired “forever”), which, together with Hong Kong Island, formed the colony of Hong Kong. Under British rule the territory became a blooming centre of trade, and, in the past few decades, a major financial hub too. When the New Territories lease was nearing its end, the British knew (already having lost most of their colonies) that there was little point in trying to keep Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and they intended to hand the whole territory back to China — this finally happened in in 1997 (“the Handover”). However, Hong Kong is still not completely part of China — I’ll talk about this in more detail in the One Country, Two Systems section.
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