Edited by Anis Chowdhury and Iyanatul Islam
Chapter 5: Hong Kong
Kui-Wai Li A short political history The Hong Kong Island was ceded to Great Britain in perpetuity at the end of the Opium War in the unequal Treaty of Nanking on 28 August 1842. The Kowloon Peninsula was subsequently leased in perpetuity to Great Britain on 26 March 1860. In June 1898, the New Territories were leased to Great Britain for a period of 99 years. To the British Empire, the Hong Kong colony was useful as an important trading and re-export hub between China and Western countries, and between Great Britain and Southeast Asian countries. Politically, the British colonial government practised administrative absolutism that produced a high degree of administrative eﬃciency. As the highest authority in the colony, the Governor was supported by the Executive Council, while the Legislative Council was involved with the law-making process. Free political elections were entirely absent, and a widespread welfare system had never been pursued. By adopting a British legal system, the rule of law in Hong Kong provided security to property and ensured equality in front of the law. Civic and professional institutions tended to receive a high degree of public trust, and often acted as ‘check and balance’ on the administration of the Hong Kong colonial government. Hong Kong’s stability had been subjected to prolonged tests and threats in the last century, resulting in large inﬂows of refugees from mainland China. Externally, the two World Wars of 1914–18 and 1939–45 imposed hardship on the people of Hong...
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