Strange as it sounds, Chinese officialdom wasn't cognizant of the treaty describing the hand-over - until British officials informed them in 1979.  Chinese officialdom were unawares, because of the cavalcade of tumultuous events which took place in China during the 20th Century.  The last treaty signed, by British and Chinese officials, actually specified that the most important part of the colony (delineated by 'Boundary Road') remain a member of the British commonwealth 'in perpetuity.'

The first half of the book summarizes the actual true-life history of China, from the first Portuguese and British trading ships of the 16th century, up until the 1997 hand-over of Hong Kong. The second half of the Hong Kong book offers a fictional scenario of what might have happened if just one or two lead-up incidents had been slightly altered. Hong Kong island and Kowloon could well have remained British, according to signed treaties.
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An Excerpt from the book........

Since the Europeans were itching for a fight, and they knew they would prevail with their superior armaments, it didn't take much of an incident to spark the next armed conflict. Similar to the Gulf of Tonkin incident a hundred years later, where American naval forces were itching for the slightest provocation from the Vietnamese - to spark a strong military response, the incident which sparked the Second Opium War was relatively insignificant. In October 1856, a vessel of questionable ownership (it was Chinese, but flying a Union Jack flag), was boarded by Chinese officials purporting to want to inspect its cargo.

     In response to what would ordinarily have been a small incident, the British unleashed cannon fire upon the city of Canton (modern day; Guangzou). In a fit of alarmism, the Brits were able to incite the Americans and French to join in the fray. A group of western ships went on to capture forts near the Tianjin (a.k.a. 'Tienstin'), which was a major port on the north coast of China, servicing Peking.

     In contrast to the First Opium War, twenty years earlier, the Second one spread to battles on land.  This happened just after the Treaty of Tianjin was signed 1858, which allowed Britain and France, now joined by America and Russia, to trade at 11 additional ports, besides Canton. Though Quing officials signed the treaty, they were not content, and denied free movement of western forces to and from the embassies in Peking which the Quing had been forced to agree to allow. A siege of a western occupied compound developed in Peking, and western military forces provoked a series of battles along China's northern coast, and the landmass between the coast and Peking. The Xianfeng emperor fled the city. Two summer palaces located on the outskirts of Peking were destroyed, though buildings in Peking were spared.

     A newer version of the Tianjin Treaty was forced upon the Chinese. The new wording legalized the importation of opium and, in deference to Christian missionaries, stipulated freedom of religion for the Chinese people.

     One major result of that, was the Chinese officially ceded the then-insignificant island of Hong Kong to the British. At the time, there were small fishing villages there, and a population of about 1,500.  Initially, there was doubt among British officialdom, whether it could serve satisfactorily as a port which was one of Britain's main concerns at the time. However, they now had their own base for trading with the mainland and, for the first time, there were no Chinese officials with their hands out, insisting on commissions at every step of the trading process. The Brits could develop their own trading post, from the ground up, on their own terms.

     The Chinese official who agreed to the Hong Kong concession was named Kishen. The English negotiator, Charles Eliot was at first ridiculed by his compatriots for agreeing to take a small rocky island with no built-up resources. Kishen was denigrated, in turn, by fellow Chinese officials, for ceding Chinese territory to a foreign country.

     The initial British settlement was like a frontier village, with mostly ramshackle one-story buildings made of wood timber and planks, nailed together. Inclement weather made short work of destroying such buildings. Typhoons coming off the Pacific, tore apart warehouses and tossed merchandise around like fluff. Even so, good amounts of revenue were coming in from trading commissions, so subsequent buildings were considerably more sturdy.

     Unlike Macao with its Portuguese control, English traders at Hong Kong were open to allowing traders from other European countries to do business there. Chinese workers from the mainland were brought over and employed in construction projects and support services. The population of Hong Kong grew to over 20,000 by 1850. Ten years later, the population grew by an additional 100,000, fueled partly by the troubles of the Tai Ping Rebellions on the mainland. Many Chinese used Hong Kong as a stepping stone to new places to work and live. Some went to California, heeding the call for laborers needed to build the railroad eastward over the Sierra Nevada mountains there. Others opted to settle at various other places throughout southeast Asia.

     The opium problem didn't get fully settled with the Opium Wars, so other conflicts flared to military confrontations. Again, the might of the British navy prevailed, which led to treaties which expanded Honk Kong to include the nearby Kowloon Peninsula, up to an east-west street called, appropriately enough, Boundary Street. This was Britain's first land possession on the Chinese mainland, and the wording of the treaty included the words; 'in perpetuity.'  In 1898, treaties were again signed with Chinese authorities, which resulted in the much larger acreage known as the 'New Territories.'  Those official agreements included over 200 small islands and a few larger ones close to Hong Kong island, including Lamma and the largest; Lantau. The 1898 treaty specified that the so-called 'New Territories' were to be handed back to China in 99 years.


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