On this Day:
On June 26, 1843 Hong Kong was proclaimed a British Crown Colony.
Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a city and special administrative region of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta in South China. With 7.5 million residents of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Hong Kong is also a major global financial centre and one of the most developed cities in the world.
Hong Kong was established as a colony of the British Empire after the Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island from Xin’an County at the end of the First Opium War in 1841 then again in 1842. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. British Hong Kong was occupied by Imperial Japan from 1941 to 1945 during World War II; British administration resumed after the surrender of Japan. The whole territory was transferred to China in 1997. As one of China’s two special administrative regions (the other being Macau), Hong Kong maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under the principle of “one country, two systems”.
Originally a sparsely populated area of farming and fishing villages, the territory has become one of the world’s most significant financial centres and commercial ports. It is the world’s tenth-largest exporter and ninth-largest importer. Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and its currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world. Hong Kong is home to the third-highest number of billionaires of any city in the world, the second-highest number of billionaires of any city in Asia, and the largest concentration of ultra high-net-worth individuals of any city in the world. Although the city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, severe income inequality exists among the population.
Hong Kong is a highly developed territory and ranks fourth on the UN Human Development Index. The city has the largest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world, and its residents have some of the highest life expectancies in the world. The dense space has led to a highly developed transportation network with public transport rates exceeding 90%. Hong Kong is ranked 3rd in the Global Financial Centres Index.
In 1839, the Daoguang Emperor rejected proposals to legalise and tax opium and ordered imperial commissioner Lin Zexu to eradicate the opium trade. The commissioner destroyed opium stockpiles and halted all foreign trade, triggering a British military response and the First Opium War. The Qing surrendered early in the war and ceded Hong Kong Island in the Convention of Chuenpi. British forces began controlling Hong Kong shortly after the signing of the convention, from 26 January 1841. However, both countries were dissatisfied and did not ratify the agreement. After more than a year of further hostilities, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded to the United Kingdom in the 1842 Treaty of Nanking.
Administrative infrastructure was quickly built by early 1842, but piracy, disease, and hostile Qing policies initially prevented the government from attracting commerce. Conditions on the island improved during the Taiping Rebellion in the 1850s, when many Chinese refugees, including wealthy merchants, fled mainland turbulence and settled in the colony. Further tensions between the British and Qing over the opium trade escalated into the Second Opium War. The Qing were again defeated and forced to give up Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island in the Convention of Peking. By the end of this war, Hong Kong had evolved from a transient colonial outpost into a major entrepôt. Rapid economic improvement during the 1850s attracted foreign investment, as potential stakeholders became more confident in Hong Kong’s future.
The colony was further expanded in 1898 when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories. The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911 as the territory’s first institution of higher education. Kai Tak Airport began operation in 1924, and the colony avoided a prolonged economic downturn after the 1925–26 Canton–Hong Kong strike. At the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Governor Geoffry Northcote declared Hong Kong a neutral zone to safeguard its status as a free port. The colonial government prepared for a possible attack, evacuating all British women and children in 1940. The Imperial Japanese Army attacked Hong Kong on 8 December 1941, the same morning as its attack on Pearl Harbor. Hong Kong was occupied by Japan for almost four years before Britain resumed control on 30 August 1945.
Its population rebounded quickly after the war, as skilled Chinese migrants fled from the Chinese Civil War and more refugees crossed the border when the Chinese Communist Party took control of mainland China in 1949. Hong Kong became the first of the Four Asian Tiger economies to industrialise during the 1950s. With a rapidly increasing population, the colonial government began reforms to improve infrastructure and public services. The public-housing estate programme, Independent Commission Against Corruption, and Mass Transit Railway were all established during the post-war decades to provide safer housing, integrity in the civil service, and more reliable transportation. Although the territory’s competitiveness in manufacturing gradually declined because of rising labour and property costs, it transitioned to a service-based economy. By the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre and shipping hub (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Divorced after 45 years.
An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York and says,
“I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 45 years of marriage… and that much misery is enough!”
“Dad, what are you talking about?” the son yells.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old dad explained. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her!”.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
“Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.”
She calls her elderly father immediately, and screams at him, “You are not getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, you hear me?” she yelled as she hung up the phone.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay”, he says, “it’s all set. They’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own air-fare.”
Second, a Song:
Thought for the Day:
“Hong Kong is a wonderful, mixed-up town where you’ve got great food and adventure. First and foremost, it’s a great place to experience China in a relatively accessible way.” – Anthony Bourdain
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky