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Handover of Hong Kong – The End of British Rule Letter

Twenty-seven years ago, a significant chapter in the history of the United Kingdom and China came to a close with the official return of Hong Kong to China. After nearly 156 years of British rule, the historic Handover of Hong Kong marked a monumental event for both nations. For the UK, this moment signified the end of British colonialism, as Hong Kong represented their last major colony. For the People’s Republic of China, the return of Hong Kong was a major triumph, reclaiming one of the territories lost during the Century of Humiliation.

Handover of Hong Kong – Road to Chinese Rule

The Island of handover of Hong Kong to Great Britain after the Opium War with the Qing Dynasty was made. During the subsequent peace treaty known as the Treaty of Nanking, China was forced to cede different territories such as the Kowloon Peninsula, including Hong Kong.

The Second Opium War further expanded these territories, adding over 235 islands, which were leased to the British for 99 years. Hong Kong would remain under British rule for the next century and a half, except for a brief period of Japanese occupation during WWII. Under British rule, the island transformed from a barren land into a modern metropolis, serving as a financial hub in Asia and a refuge for people fleeing communist rule in China. This set the stage for the eventual Handover of Hong Kong.

For this reason, the People’s Republic coveted the return of Hong Kong, but to exert more control over its lucrative economic status and for its symbolic importance. For many years, they would engage in talks with the British government to secure its handover. It was only in 1984 that the two countries finally agreed to a handover. They agreed to a transition period until 1997.

This transition period was marked by issues such as democratization in Hong Kong and the extent of CCP control over the former colony. Despite these challenges, the Handover of Hong Kong proceeded as planned, culminating in the official ceremony on the evening of June 30, 1997. The event was attended by key figures from both sides, including President Jiang Zemin from China and Prince Charles and Tony Blair from the British government.

Jiang Zemin would be the first Chinese leader to visit Hong Kong since 1942. There he reassured the people that they would carry out a  “one country, two systems” plan of local autonomy. Despite that, thousands of locals protested the dissolution of the Legislative Council (LegCo), the local government unit, and its replacement with a new Chinese system. 

However, Jiang would not be bothered by these protests, referring to it as one of China’s greatest historical effects and as a precursor to Taiwan’s reunification of China. 

This speech highlighted the reunification ceremony of Hong Kong.

“The return of Hong Kong to the motherland after going through a century of vicissitudes indicates that from now on, the Hong Kong compatriots have become true masters of this Chinese land and that Hong Kong has entered a new era of development.”

-Jiang Zemin, Former President of China.
handover of hong kong

The transition period leading up to the Handover of Hong Kong from 1984 to 1997 was marked by significant challenges and negotiations. Both Britain and China had to balance Hong Kong’s economic interests with political considerations. Issues such as democratization and the extent of Chinese control were hotly debated.

The “one country, two systems” principle was designed to preserve Hong Kong’s economic and social systems for 50 years post-handover, but many residents were skeptical about its implementation. Despite reassurances from Chinese leaders, the dissolution of the Legislative Council and the establishment of new governance structures led to widespread protests.

The handover of Hong Kong remains a significant event in both British and Chinese history. For Britain, it marked the end of its colonial era, while for China, it represented the reclamation of a lost territory and a step towards overcoming the Century of Humiliation. The legacy of the handover is complex, as Hong Kong continues to navigate its identity and autonomy within the framework of Chinese sovereignty. The city’s future remains a topic of international interest, as it balances its historical ties with the UK and its present and future under Chinese rule.

If you want to create vintage letters with your own or other people’s famous lines, including those about the Handover of Hong Kong, our Vintage Letter service allows you to make and send them here.

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