During the First Opium War, China cedes the island of Hong Kong to the British with the signing of the Chuenpi Convention, an agreement seeking an end to the first Anglo-Chinese conflict.
In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of the war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island on perpetuity to the British, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War. Britain also won the Second Opium War, forcing the Qing Empire to cede Kowloon in perpetuity in 1860, while leasing the New Territories for 99 years from 1898.
Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China.
In September 1984, after years of negotiations in which China threatened to invade Hong Kong, the British and the Chinese signed a formal agreement approving the 1997 turnover of the island in exchange for a Chinese pledge to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system.
On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous Chinese and British dignitaries. The chief executive under the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, formulated a policy based upon the concept of “one country, two systems,” thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.