On This Day: July 1st

On the 1st of July 1997 the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China officially occurred. The landmark event marked the end of British rule in Hong Kong, and is often considered to mark the end of the British Empire.

Hong Kong became a British acquisition after the First Sino-Japanese War which Japan were victorious in, the Chinese government were severely weakened and European powers took advantage with a scramble for territory. The Convention between the United Kingdom and China, Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory was forced upon the Qing dynasty by the British. The convention was signed on 9 June 1898 in Beijing. The contract was signed to give the British full jurisdiction of the newly acquired land that was necessary to ensure proper military defence of the colony around the island. Under the convention the territories north of what is now Boundary Street and south of the Sham Chun River, and the surrounding islands, later known as the “New Territories” were leased to the United Kingdom for 99 years rent-free, expiring on 30 June 1997, and became part of the crown colony of Hong Kong. The territories which were leased to the United Kingdom were originally governed by Xin’an County, Guangdong province. Claude MacDonald, the British representative during the convention, picked a 99-year lease because he thought it was “as good as forever.”

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