If one wants to talk about the Hong Kong of today, he or she should get in touch with the historical facts that defined this tiny peace of land throughout history, and thus, many answers on the burning questions of today might emerge. History as we know is written by the victors, but none the less, here are some hard facts unshaded by personal sentiment.
Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire in 1842, with the signing of the Nanjing treaty, which officially put an and to the First Opium War.
First Opium War (1839-1942) broke out as a response to Chinese Empire’s intentions to restrict British exports and sales of Indian opium (heroine) to the Chinese population. Up to 20.000 Chinese were killed and British forces suffered less than 100 casualties.
In the 1860 Convention of Beijing, which came out as a result of the Second Opium War, Kowloon was added to the existing British colony of Hong Kong.
Second Opium War (1856–1860) was fought between the British Empire, France, later including Russia and United States of America against the forces Imperial China. The cause was once again opium trade on Chinese soil, as well as the foreign demands to regulate trade within China itself.
In 1898, Britain signed the Second Beijing Convention according to which the New Territories were incorporated into the British protectorate of Hong Kong, on the basis of a 99 year lease. Chinese Imperial government was in it’s last days at the time, corrupt and disorganized, while the army and country suffered exhaustion from the Japanese invasion and the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895).
Hong Kong was under a British rule for 155 years. During this time it had a status of a Crown Colony (1842-1981) and a British Dependent Territory (1981-1997).
The supreme ruler of Hong Kong prior to 1997 was the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth the Second. Her face was on applied on the coins and banknotes of the Hong Kong Dollar, her portraits were compulsory in public offices and schools, while her birthday was celebrated as an official holiday. Distance between Buckingham palace in London and Hong Kong is approximately 9600 kilometers.
The anthem of Hong Kong was “God save the Queen”, while the flag, money, personal identification and official insignia carried the coat of arms of Great Britain.
Hong Kong was ruled by a Governor, who would be directly appointed by the Queen herself. There was no elections of any kind in Hong Kong during it’s colonial status, and therefore no democratic freedom of choice.
Hong Kong’s legal system enjoyed a degree of sovereignty, however, it was subdued to the British common-law procedures.
Citizens of Hong Kong were not awarded with the British Citizenship, but the so called British Overseas Territories Citizenship which means they did not enjoy a full legal status in the United Kingdom, to which they officially belonged to.
The only legally official language was English.
In conclusion, Hong Kong hardly had any features of a democratic state, nor it was a true state. It was an ex-territorial colony and a part of another country, under a direct control from the other side of the world. How does that compare to the Hong Kong of today? Let’s see:
Hong Kong is under Chinese sovereignty, however, it’s government is practically independent.
The Legislative Council is elected in general elections.
The Chief Executive is to be elected in general elections, with the only requirement of being in accordance with the Beijing central government policies. It makes logical sense knowing that Hong Kong is a part of China.
Both English and Chinese are official languages.
Official documents and currency do not hold any insignia of the People’s Republic of China.
Two anthems are officially in use: “March of the Volunteers” and “The City Flower”.
Completely independent economic, legal and education systems.
Hong Kong provides own citizenship to it’s citizens.
Independence in the fields of international trade and banking.
People’s Liberation Army stationed in Hong Kong is being funded and maintained at the expense of Beijing.
After looking at all this, it seems to me that some people in Hong Kong, kids in particular (born somewhere around 1997), didn’t read their history right, nor have any idea what terms “democracy” and “freedom” actually mean. I guess youth rebellion is a child’s illness which all of us have to go throug at some point. Hopefully, they will grow up quick enough. It’s best for them to drop the umbrella and take a book instead – Learning and working is what makes a human being, not shouting and demolishing.