Manual The Final Years of British Hong Kong: The Discourse of Colonial Withdrawal

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discourse of the last British Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten, in the five years leading up to the change of sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain to China.
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The emperor sent Lin Zexu to southern China to take control. Opium smokers were given a year to kick the habit and smuggling was brought to a halt. Shortly after Lin arrived, he confiscated 21, chests of opium and washed the drugs into the sea. These losses, coupled with a determination to pry open Chinese markets, led the British to declare war on the Qing in British warships blockaded the mouth of the Pearl River while others steamed up the Chinese coast to harass Beijing. As the fleet neared Tianjin, a port city 75 miles southeast of Beijing, the Qing sued for peace.

Even more devastating, the Qing were forced to pay a massive indemnity. The British acquired Hong Kong to facilitate trade with China and to establish a strategic military outpost. When the island was absorbed into the empire, its population was less than 10,, a figure that doubled within the first few years of British administration. Hong Kong in after British acquisition. Like other colonies around the world, British Hong Kong succeeded through local cooperation.


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This mixing of peoples made misunderstandings common while the initial weakness of the new colonial government allowed crime to soar. Pirates and thieves regularly raided warehouses and burgled homes. A battle scene during the Taiping Rebellion, from Hong Kong would remain just a distant British outpost until the Taiping Rebellion, the most destructive civil war in human history, from to Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the iconoclastic Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ, set about toppling the Qing Empire and establishing a Christian empire in China.

The war devastated China, pushing the Qing to their breaking point and costing between 20 and 30 million lives. Fleeing the turmoil, wealthy merchants and ordinary subjects poured into the relative safety of Hong Kong. This new lease was to last 99 years, but many believed it would never expire. The expansion of the territory and the influx of people and money set colonial Hong Kong on the path toward growth, though it was still far from the booming metropolis it would become in the mid th century.

Chinese refugees at the Hong Kong border in The trade barriers led Chinese entrepreneurs in Hong Kong to invest in other opportunities such as light industries. Textile manufacturing soared in Hong Kong in the s. The PRC overcame enormous difficulties but also suffered massive unrest during its first 25 years. Less than 10 years later, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution unleashed political factionalism that touched every quarter of PRC society and further damaged the economy.

By contrast, Hong Kong enjoyed a strong economy despite its own unrest in the s. As the PRC became more open to the outside world in the late s, travel to China confirmed just how different the two places had become during more than a century of colonial administration. At the same time, the city began to enjoy greater autonomy from Britain. As the economy expanded, Hong Kong embraced its ambiguous identity, neither fully Chinese nor British.

Undeterred, Hong Kong transitioned successfully into a service-based economy and is now one of the most important financial and shipping centers in the world with a per capita GDP similar to that of the United States. Hong Kong protesters demanded universal suffrage in A movement toward creating direct democratic elections with universal suffrage gained steam in the late s and s.

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However, the process was not completed before the British handover in If direct elections had come to the city, perhaps Hong Kong could have chosen its own fate. As a colony, the city and its citizens scarcely could control the future. For much of the s and s, the PRC insisted that recovering Hong Kong was not a top priority, though if the city were to be returned it would be done so peacefully. In the midst of this social, political, and notably economic transformation, the PRC and Britain began negotiating the peaceful return of Hong Kong to China. These negotiations resulted in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of , with the result that Britain agreed to return the city to China in The declaration also took into account the vast social and political gulf between the PRC and Hong Kong.

The PRC had taken drastic action to reform its economy with spectacular results. The political freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong, including freedom of speech and of the press, were to be protected for no less than 50 years. As the British flag was lowered and the Chinese flag rose over the city, people around the world wondered if the PRC would uphold its end of the bargain.

For many in Hong Kong, the transition spelled uncertainty, yet for the first few years, business went on as usual. Cracks began to show in the early s, however. In , the practitioners of a controversial religious sect known as Falun Gong, which the Chinese Communist Party banned in China, were arrested while protesting in Hong Kong.

Hundreds of thousands of people protested the measure. That was, until Toward the end of the s, Beijing slowly began to assert greater control. Hong Kong was moving toward direct elections to select its Chief Executive, but in , Beijing announced that it reserved the right to approve the candidates.

The decision sparked a movement for transparent elections. Protesters overlooking the crowd in November top. Police dispersing demonstrators with tear gas in October bottom. Thousands gathered on the thirty-first day of protest in October right. The resulting Umbrella Movement gained its name after protesters used open umbrellas to defend themselves from pepper spray deployed by police.

Hundreds of thousands flooded into the streets and occupied parts of Hong Kong, including the Admiralty district on the island and Tsim Sha Tsui a popular shopping and nightlife area in Kowloon. After nearly three months of protests, student activists such as Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and others faced months in jail and the movement cooled. Both projects link Hong Kong to China and have received mixed support by locals. Hong Kong merchants who sold books banned in China have disappeared. The PRC has initiated patriotic education campaigns aimed at transforming education curriculums in the city to foster a particular Chinese identity.

All of these maneuvers, though not without support from pro-Beijing citizens, have had a chilling effect. The one country, two systems arrangement may prove inadequate if Hong Kongers refuse to relinquish aspects of their old identity and dreams of a more democratic future.

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Police throwing tear gas at protesters in July With only 28 years left before full reunification, how the two parties will bridge the gulf created by over years of separation remains unclear. Carroll, John M. A Concise History of Hong Kong. Critical Issues in History. Flowerdew, John. New York, N. Martin's Press, Hayes, James. Munn, Christopher. Richmond: Curzon, Platt, Stephen R. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, First ed. Search the catalogue for collection items held by the National Library of Australia. Flowerdew, John. The final years of British Hong Kong : the discourse of colonial withdrawal.

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How the UK Lost Hong Kong

You must be logged in to Tag Records. The Imperialist Background 2. From Early Development to the Beginnings of Retrocession 3.

The discourse of colonial withdrawal : A case study in the creation of mythic discourse

The Negotiations and the Joint Declaration 4. Representative Government and the Basic Law 5. Tiananmen and After 6. Enter Christopher Patten 7. Patten's Political Reform Programme 8.