Hong Kong

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British sovereignty (up to 1997)

A territory on the south coast of China, situated on the mouth of the Pearl River, opposite Macao. The British occupied the island of Hong Kong in 1841, declaring it a Crown Colony in 1843. To it were added Kowloon and Stonecutters Island in 1860. The British acquired the New Territories, which became its biggest area by far, on a 99‐year lease in 1898. Its population quadrupled from 1900 to 1941, owing to continuous unrest and warfare in mainland China, until the Japanese overran the British forces stationed there in December 1941. British control was re‐established after the Japanese surrender in 1945, but the struggling colony only began to prosper from 1949, when Mao's victory in the Chinese Civil War prompted the influx of capital and cheap labour from China.

Over the decades, the area was transformed into one of the world's fastest‐growing economies, with full employment, growth rates averaging 10 per cent, and a booming stock market. In 1966 and 1967, riots against the authoritarian government, into whose affairs Britain hardly intervened, caused a moderate opening‐up of the colony's administration, though this was restricted to the consultation of elites rather than democratic government. Under Governor Sir Murray MacLehose, an extensive housing scheme was introduced for the first time, and social services were improved.

In 1984, an agreement between the UK and China was reached over the future of the New Territories, the lease on which expired on 1 July 1997. The entire colony of Hong Kong would revert to Chinese control, but retain considerable autonomy as a Special Administrative Region, which would retain its capitalist economy for at least fifty years. Details were put down in a Basic Law, which fell short of the colony's expectations of guarantees against arbitrary Chinese rule. Concerns about impending Communist rule, which reached a climax in response to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, led to a series of unprecedented political reforms. A Human Rights Ordinance was passed in 1990, capital punishment was abolished, and the Legislative Assembly was opened to greater democratic representation.

Contemporary politics (since 1997)

Under Chinese rule since 1997, Hong Kong's economy was transformed into a high‐skilled economy which benefited from its access to China's industrial base. Many of the political reforms of the final years of British rule were repealed by the Chinese, with Hong Kong being governed by a Chief Executive appointed in Beijing. Between 1997 and 2005, this post was filled by the unpopular Tung Chee Hwa, who appeared to be unable to respond to the concerns of Hong Kong's political classes. Following his resignation, Tung was replaced by his deputy, Donald Tsang.

Subjects: History — Performing Arts.

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