Hong Kong was founded by the British to help the British government gain their desired trading access to China. According to Lord Stanley, AThe Asian possession (Hong Kong) was founded not with a view for colonization, but for diplomatic, commercial and military purposes@. The point is that the British took Hong Kong because they needed to use it to maintain close proximity to the huge market of China without the restrains that may come from the Chinese government. The idea was to own a peace of the Asian trade route with no responsibility to the Chinese government. The British merchants were enamored by
the tea and ultimately the opium market. They bought tea from the Chinese and shipped it home to England where most of the English populace drank a handsome sum regularly. And for the British government the duty from the tea trade accounted for up to 10 percent of the entire government budget. So for the British owning a peace of Asia in order to maintain that lucrative source of income and tea was economically desirable. The plan was really not to colonize the territory in the real sense of colonizing, but simply to own that peace of land which came with an important shipping harbor. British merchants HONG KONG 2
bought tea, silk and opium came into the equation later. As they took command of the Indian opium and started exchanging it for tea and silk, the Chinese authorities protested and eventually confiscated some merchants opium shipment which they destroyed in the harbor. Queen Victoria saw that as an insult and quickly despatched a military expedition to the area, after some quick defeats of the Chinese army, the British took control of the mountainous Hong Kong territory and demanded that they keep the territory, period. The Chinese really had nothing to bargain with because of the definite superior military
presence of the British marines. So during the now famous Cheunpi treaty followed closely by the Nanjing treaty the Chinese ceded the Hong Kong territory and the Kowloon area to the British for a 99 year lease. The political set up was a loose system designed essentially to protect the interests of the British merchants. It was not a traditional colonizing format, because again that was not the objective, the objective was to use that piece of land to make money, to protect the merchants, and to aid them even in their quest to deal opium which was strongly opposed by the Chinese, but that did not matter, because the Queen
was willing to send the army in order to protect all trading activities in Hong Kong. It was a safe permanent territorial base, close enough to the mainland and to the Chinese market, and the primary objective was to support the economic activities of British merchants. (Buckley, 1993) HONG KONG 3 So the answer to the question about how and why the British commandeered Hong Kong, the paper has presented a rough preamble answer to the question and about the British objectives, they needed to secure a close and permanent space that could be used to engage
in the trading of tea, silk, and opium, as well as silver, and in return the British flooded the Asian market with watches and clocks. The opium war that began when Lin Zexu destroyed some opium shipments that belonged to the merchants, the Queen sent in the marines and simply took over that piece of land, and in the treaties that followed the British merchant got their price permanently for 99 years, or in perpetuity. But it is important to point out that the Japanese were in control of Hong Kong from 1941 to 1945, during the second world war. (Buckley, 1993) IMPORTANT ISSUES DURING THE BRITISH RULE.
POLITICS DURING THE BRITISH RULE. The British were in charge of running Hong Kong for 156 years, and during that period, a Governor was appointed by the British government, the last Hong Kong Governor appointed by the British government was Chris Patten. Because it was clear that the British government was not really interested in establishing a strong democratic government in Hong Kong, no effort was made to establish an elective system of democracy. No elected positions existed in the Executive and the legislative offices that HONG KONG 4 ran Hong Kong. However as the British prepared to separate itself from Hong Kong,
Patten began to organize some elective semblance into the running of Hong Kong. The Chinese of course were suspicious of this move, but it went on nevertheless. So in 1995, the Democratic Party of Hong Kong led by Martin Lee were able to elect about 17 members to the legislative council (Legco). And by the time the British finally left Hong Kong the legislative council had a total membership of about 60 members. At the present not very much has changed from the format that the British left in Hong Kong on their way out. But some have expressed misgivings about the system, and concerns have been
voiced about the journalistic freedom of the city of Hong Kong. There are also concerns about the rise in crime and corruption, however crime has generally remained low compared to other places. And crime did not just happen in Hong Kong, the fact is that during the early years of the British rule, the territory of Hong Kong was known for its gambling, pimping, and other sinister activities including piracy in the waters of the region around the territory of Hong Kong. (Buckley, 1993). Currently Hong Kong is ran by a system known as the SAR, or Special Administration Region.
The system permits Hong Kong to maintain just about all of its sovereignty, except in the area of defense, which reverts back to China. The SAR is led by a chief executive Donald Tsang, who was elected in 2005, and will be in office until 2012. A special committee made up of about 800 constituency groups from many areas of life elects HONG KONG 5 the chief executive. But it is not universal suffrage. In 2002, the Hong Kong officials implemented the Principle Officials Accountability System. The system is designed to become more responsive to the needs of the people. Now the system has added about 11
political appointees, and they are entirely responsible to the chief executive, and those 11 political appointees run the 11 policy bureaus in Hong Kong. The other political changes include the chief secretary, and the financial secretary as well as the justice secretary, and all of these positions are politically appointed. There are presently no human rights issues as some complain that there may be in China, but many have indicated concern that the Chinese government may have undue influence on Hong Kong. But Hong Kong remains free and open, the courts have independence from undue pressure from the other branches.
However there are obvious concerns about the real inability of the people of Hong Kong to change their government if they so desire. (U. S. department of states) During the legislative of election of 2004, many complained about intimidation and manipulation during the voting. But Hong Kong is currently working on developing universal suffrage for all the residents of Hong Kong, but for the moment it has not happened. For now just as it was during the British era, most of the political powers remain concentrated on the chief executive who is not elected by the entire residents of Hong Kong.
(Martin, 2007; U. S. dept of states). HONG KONG 6 The point here is that while Hong Kong remain largely peaceful with its rule of law intact, and its respect for human rights carried over to the post British period, no significant effort has been made in democratizing the selection of the chief executive and the selection of the members of the legislative council. The secretaries of the bureaus are still appointed, and they remain largely responsible only to the chief executive. And while universal suffrage remains an objective, Hong Kong just has not gotten to that point in its political evolution.
POLITICAL PARTIES Again political parties were not even in the British equation until late in the British colonization. Political parties truly emerged in Hong Kong during the 1980’s as Governor Patten began to permit such activities. Now political parties are able to sponsor candidates for the legislative council, but they are really not able to form a government. But they have good organizations, and good structure, they have good support, and they try to influence public policy. HONG KONG 7 ECONOMICS The introductory section of the paper stressed the stated objective of the British colonizers,
it was purely economics, it was to gain access to a market that the British obviously considered important enough to go to war for. The treaty that resulted from the opium war essentially handed Hong Kong to the England. Since then Hong Kong has been a huge economic zone, not just for the British, but for the entire Asian basin and ultimately to the entire world. During most of the period of the British rule, Hong Kong had an outstanding economic performance. It out-performed most world economies even though it is only a small territory with minimal land mass carved out of main land China. In 2006, Hong Kong=s economy grew at 6.
8 percent, and accumulated a total of $188. 8 billion. It still has its deepwater harbor, and its highly invested in textiles, manufacturing, electronics as well as raw materials. Because the British authorities were largely interested in making money with Hong Kong, they refused to develop a central bank for the territory. This has had some unexpected economic benefits for the territory, because there is no central bank, Honk Kong can not engage in discretionary printing of money. What that means is that the system does not permit the government for instance to simply print money to subsidize projects that have no profit value.
It does not permit them to engage in entitlement programs. If there is inflation in Hong Kong the inflation would appear only because the amount of foreign currency that has flowed into the economy is in excess of the territories real assets growth, so the inflation at best would be passive. (Fisher, et al, 1998). The Hong HONG KONG 8 Kong dollar is attached to the U. S. dollar, and since after the currency scare of Asia in 1997, just after the handover, Hong Kong=s currency has remained relatively stable. However all is not well in the economy of Hong Kong, just as it was during the British era,
real estate remains a huge concern in Hong Kong. Overcrowding was common during colonization, and overcrowding is a concern now. When houses are seen in Hong Kong their prices are obscenely high. Most residents of Hong Kong live in high rise condos, and some of them live in high rise flats. The point is that real estate is not cheap in Hong Kong now, and it was not cheap when the British was un power. One of the reasons that the real estate market is so awful in Hong Kong is the fact that the British were fist tightened when it came to releasing land for development. The British made it impossible
to acquire new lands because the rules only permits them to release about 200 acres of land per a year in spite of the fact that commercial activities are quite intense in the territory. It is estimated that the deluge of activities would require the release of about 200,000 acres a year for Hong Kong to meet the yearly real estate demand of its residents. But the point has to be made that Hong=s land supply is inherently limited, so it may not be realistic to expect that even an increase in the allocation of available land would ease the problem for the extended period.