221 BC - First records in Chinese history of the territory which is now known as Hong Kong. AD 901 - Puntis began to settle in Hong Kong. 1550 - Hong Kong Village was built. Originally, Hong Kong was once named Xianjiang because in the Ming dynasty it was used as a harbour to transport fragrant trees from Dongguan (a city of Guangdong province) and since “Xiang” in Chinese means fragrant, the name “Fragrant Harbour” - Hong Kong was derived from this. Then, Hong Kong was a small place which belonged to Xinan, Guangdong province, which is now known as Shenzhen.
Before the British arrived there and used it as a naval base, Hong Kong was a small fishing community and a haven for travellers and pirates in the South China Sea. In 1840, the Opium War broke out and the conflict arose from Chinese resistance to allowing their ports to trade in opium produced in British-controlled India. The British used force on two occasions in the late 1830s and late 1850s to impose their commercial will.
The first Opium War ended in 1841 with the Treaty of Nanking. This resulted in Hong Kong Island being ceded to Britain and five other ports licensed for foreign trade. Under the Convention of Peking in 1860 during the second Opium War, the Kowloon peninsula was ceded to Britain. In 1898, the British acquired the New territories from China on a 99-year contract. The British controlled Hong Kong from then on - apart from a four-year period during World War II when the territory was occupied by the Japanese - until Hong Kong’s handover in July 1997.
In the early 1900's, Hong Kong was a refuge for exiles from China. When the Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1932, thousands of Chinese people came to Hong Kong, and the number was steadily increasing each year. On December 25, 1941, the British surrendered the territory to the Japanese army but after Japan's surrender in August of 1945, reclaimed its territory.
In December 1984, the British and Chinese Governments signed an agreement confirming the terms of previous agreements. In the 1984 agreement, a policy named ‘one country, two systems’ was coined by the Chinese to describe the future regime and its relationship with mainland China. The 1984 agreement also contained guarantees on the future of Hong Kong, specifically, that the territory would enjoy a high degree of autonomy, especially in the economic field, where its existing system would be largely left intact. Only in the fields of foreign affairs and defense would the new Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong be subject to the dictate of Peking.
Finally, on July 1st 1997, Hong Kong, the Kowloon Peninsula and The New Territories were formally handed back to China by Britain.
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