The History of Hong Kong as part of China’s mainland goes back to the dynasty of Qin, about 221 to 206 BC, when groups of people from the dynasty settled in this territory. They had a huge impact on the indigenous non-Chinese people that populated the area since they imposed their traditions and heritage. It is so that the Hong Kong of the time became to be known as the Nanhai Commandery, and then the Nanyue Kingdom that would be conquered by the Han Dynasty.
Vestiges found have indicated that in total, Hong Kong has been under the administration of the following dynasties:
Qing, the last dynasty of China, would turn out to be the last dynasty in contact with Hong Kong before it gained the interest of western forces as a military station and an exchange harbor, around the 15th and 16th century.
When the western people first noticed the commercial potential of China as a strategic hub of products like silk, tea and silver, the first to establish a trading enterprise in Hong Kong were the Portuguese in 1555, while the British controlled the exchange in Guangzhou (neighboring province of Hong Kong).
In exchange for the highly valued porcelain and commodities that the British received from the people of China, these, introduced the exotic Opium from its Indian British colonies. It was due to the evident success of the commerce of Opium in China that the current emperor banned it in 1799, favoring the exchange of its waning silver. The emperor’s attempts to wane the commerce of Opium however, were hindered by its own people who refused to forgo such a prosperous business, and continued to sneak it into the country.
Consequently, the First Opium War resulted in Hong Kong becoming a British colony on January 1841, based on the never-signed (thus, illegal) Convention of Chuen Pi. That year, Sir Henry Pottinger accepted the post as governor and as such, focused on developing the full potential of this new colony. Despite Pottinger’s ruthless methods, Hong Kong knew progress under his administration, turning into one of the greatest world port cities.
Almost a hundred years later, during World War II, while the British had their hands full with the Germans in Europe, Japan attacked Hong Kong. Barely eight hour after striking Perl Harbor, Japan started a relentless fight that in hardly two weeks succeeded in taking over the island; on December 25, 1941, Hong Kong knew a new nation of landlords.
By the time the World War ended and the British recovered its dominions over the island, their omnipotent image had been shattered and Hong Kong refused to relinquish the free-market economy installed under Japan’s jurisdiction.
With such economy and under the British expertise, Hong Kong became one of the East Asian Tigers and by 1990, its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita exceeded that of its colonial masters, the British.
By then, UK’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had worked on improving relations with PRC (the People’s Republic of China), developing a Sino-British Joint Declaration that settled the motto of “One country, two systems.” It prepared the field for Hong Kong’s Handover to china in 1997. This declaration also resulted in the highest emigration recorded in the history of Hong Kong, since many of its inhabitants, used to the free-market economy, opted for moving abroad before staying in a region associated to a communist country.
Under the motto “One country, two systems,” Hong Kong is now a capitalist economy inside the socialist republic of China. It is the world's Fourth Largest Financial Center following London, New York and Tokyo; and is not affected by several restrictions of mainland China, such as foreign exchange controls and news censorship.
In many aspects, Hong Kong functions as a small country with its own police force, international dialing code, border controls, and different currency. The Joint Declaration is the foundation of the Basic Law that works as a mini-constitution for Hong Kong as one of China’s SAR (Special Administration Region). In addition, Hong Kong also forms part of international organizations that otherwise restrict autonomous states from being affiliates, such as the APEC, IOC and WTO.