The 1842 Treaty of Nanjing cedes Hong Kong island to Britain in perpetuity. It is ruled by Britain as a colony. The Peking Convention of 1860 cedes the Kowloon area, on the mainland opposite Hong Kong island, to Britain, also in perpetuity. The Peking Convention of 1898 gives Britain a 99-year lease over the New Territories, comprising an additional mainland area and additional islands.
China presents its claims for the return of the New Territories at the Paris peace talks in 1919 and at the Washington Conference in 1921, but both times they are rejected. The first Chinese legislator is named to the Hong Kong Executive Council in 1926, but the government remains almost entirely British. Britain extends diplomatic recognition to China's Nationalist government.
Hong Kong continues to be ruled by Crown-appointed governors except for a brief period when it falls to Japan (1941-45). During this period China and the U.S. both pressure Britain to return Hong Kong to China, but Winston Churchill refuses, saying, "Hands off the British Empire." In 1945, Britain accepts the Japanese surrender and reestablishes full colonial rule in Hong Kong.
While decolonizing elsewhere, Britain adamantly holds onto Hong Kong as its most profitable colony. Political tensions erupt frequently during this decade as China accuses Hong Kong of sympathizing with the ousted Nationalists, now in Taiwan.
A series of articles begin to appear in the Chinese press describing Hong Kong as an unresolved problem left over from the past, and "when conditions are ripe... should be settled peacefully through negotiations." Years of political turmoil in China provoke no changes or political reforms in Hong Kong.
When Deng Xiaoping takes charge in China, he begins negotiations with Britain over Hong Kong's future. In 1984 the question of sovereignty is settled with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, making Hong Kong a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China in 1997. It will retain its way of life for 50 years under a "one country, two systems" doctrine.
The Basic Law that will govern Hong Kong post-1997 is drafted and approved, and plans are made for the transition. Mirroring the new openness in China, local Hong Kong activism increases. After the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square, the Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China is formed.
Sino-British officials reach a secret deal on the future political structure of Hong Kong. Basic Law is formally enacted by the People's Congress and promulgated by the PRC, enshrining the concept of "one country, two systems." The head of the SAR will be a chief executive, advised by an executive council. The first Hong Kong Legislative Council (LEGCO) elections are held.
The Hong Kong Bill of Rights is enacted, but Chinese officials claim the right to repeal any rights and laws incompatible with Basic Law. In 1992 pro-China elements form the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong. Liberal Democrats win by a landslide in the 1994 LEGCO elections. Chinese officials decry LEGCO as an "advisory body" within the British colonial structure.
On July 1, Hong Kong becomes HKSAR, a Special Administrative Region of China, under the leadership of industrial tycoon Tung Chee-hwa. He is answerable to China's president, Jiang Zemin. Anson Chan is administrative secretary. The Union Jack is lowered for the last time in 1997, and the flag of the People's Republic of China is raised.
The Democratic Party still dominates the Legislative Council, but chief executive Tung wields effective power and is reappointed without elections in early 2002. He makes political appointments to minister-like positions, breaking with the tradition of top civil servants running administrative departments. Tung's popularity, high in 1997, is now less than that of Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.
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