The British Crown Colony of Hong Kong
Hong Kong is situated on the south-east coast of China and the island was ceded to the British in 1842. The peninsular of Kowloon on the mainland, together with Stonecutters Island , was secured in 1860, whilst a larger area of the mainland called the New Territories was leased for ninety-nine years in 1898 – the total area of the Colony being 398 square miles. Under British Administration the Government was in the hands of the Governor with an Executive Council and a Legislative Council.
Hong Kong lies at the mouth of the Pearl River just within the tropics. From May to October the south-west monsoon brings high heat and humidity and most of the annual rainfall averaging eighty-five inches falls at this time of year.
Early accounts of life in Hong Kong show that the colonists had many obstacles to overcome. The new settlement was ravaged by fires, levelled by typhoons and the population decimated by fevers – yet the administration did not lose heart. Encouragement was given to merchants to build their trading houses and residences, roads were laid down, markets and hospitals built, churches provided and schools established – all within the space of the first three years. The city was named Victoria after Her Majesty The Queen.
Utility services were developed – the HK & China Gas Company in 1861, the Peak Tram in 1885, the HK Electric Company in 1889, China Light & Power in 1903, the Tramways in 1904 and the Kowloon – Canton Railway in 1910. Trade flourished and Hong Kong became one of the world’s greatest ports.
Canton fell to the Japanese in 1938 resulting in a mass exodus of refugees to Hong Kong. It was estimated that some 100,000 refugees entered in 1937 and 500,000 in 1938 – bringing HK’s population at the outbreak of WWII to an estimated 1.6 million. Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941 and the resulting occupation lasted three years and eight months. After the war Chinese civilians returned to the Colony at the rate of 100,000 a month. By the end of 1947 the population was estimated to be 1.8 million. In 1948-49, as the forces of the Chinese Nationalist Government began to face defeat in the civil war at the hands of the Communists, Hong Kong received an influx of refugees unparalleled in its history. By 1971 the population had reached 4 million, by 1980 it was 5 million and in 1994 it was 6 million.
On 30th. June 1997 Britain returned Hong Kong to China and she is now classed as a Special Administrative Region of China operating under the principle of “one country two systems”.