- Hong Kong is preparing to introduce new middle school textbooks that will deny the Chinese territory was ever a British colony. China’s Communist rulers say the semi-autonomous city and the nearby former Portuguese colony of Macao were merely occupied by foreign powers and that China never relinquished sovereignty over them.
Was Hong Kong a colony?
- Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 until its handover to Chinese rule in 1997, with the exception of Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. Its colonial status was the result of a pair of 19th century treaties signed at the end of the first and second Opium Wars, along with the granting of a 99-year lease in 1898 to the New Territories, which greatly expanded the size of the colony.
- In the late 20th century — with China unwilling to extend the lease on the New Territories, and the colony not viable without them — Britain entered into protracted and often contentious negotiations with Beijing over conditions for the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule.
- Ultimately, China took control of Hong Kong in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” arrangement that would keep the city’s economic, political and judicial systems distinct from those in mainland China for 50 years. That was laid out in a 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration registered with the United Nations, although China now refuses to recognize the agreement.
Why is Hong Kong changing textbooks now?
- The new textbooks are part of broader changes to education following the 2019 protests, in which many students participated and some played leadership roles.
- The texts are for liberal studies classes, which the government overhauled last year after pro-Beijing lawmakers and supporters said they encouraged opposition and activist thought. The classes now focus on themes such as national security, patriotism and identity.
Key Facts about Hong Kong
- Hong Kong is a highly developed territory and ranks fourth on the UN Human Development Index.
- The city has the largest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world, and its residents have some of the highest life expectancies in the world.
- The dense space has led to a highly developed transportation network with public transport rates exceeding 90%.
- Hong Kong is ranked 3rd in the Global Financial Centres Index.
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