How long did the British rule Hong Kong?

20 years of Hong Kong in China: Contested autonomy until 2047

The former British crown colony of Hong Kong has belonged to China again since July 1, 1997, but is governed according to the principle of "one country, two systems". Before the handover, the People's Republic guaranteed the economic and financial metropolis a high degree of autonomy, but protests against the increasing influence of China overshadow the 20th anniversary. The most important questions and answers about the special administrative area:

Why was Hong Kong handed over to China in the first place?

After the victory in the first opium war over China (Treaty of Nanking 1842) Great Britain founded a crown colony on the Hong Kong island, after the victory in the second opium war the Kowloon peninsula was added.

In 1898, the UK finally signed a 99-year leasing contract with China to gain control of additional areas on the mainland, the "New Territories".

Under British rule, Hong Kong quickly became an important port and later one of the most important financial and trading centers in the world.

In 1982 London and Beijing began negotiations on the future status of Hong Kong, which, in contrast to communist China, developed economically and politically pluralistic.

What was the deal that resulted in the surrender of Hong Kong?

In the negotiations, it was contractually agreed between Great Britain and China that Hong Kong would continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the principle of "one country, two systems". Foreign and defense policy are excluded from this.

Hong Kong became a Chinese Special Administrative Region with its own legal system, several political parties and the right to freedom of expression and assembly. All of these rights were set out in the Basic Law, a kind of constitution for Hong Kong.

How is Hong Kong governed today?

Hong Kong is governed on the one hand by the Legislative Council, some of whose members are directly elected, others are delegated by professional associations and other interest groups.

The head of government, also known as the "Chief Executive", is elected indirectly by an election committee consisting of 1,200 members. Under British rule, the Chief Executive was appointed by London. The election of the head of government is considered a central point of contention between pro-China and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

As part of China, the Hong Kong head of state is formally the incumbent head of state of the People's Republic.

Why have there been mass protests in Hong Kong since 2014?

Activists have been demanding for years that the people of Hong Kong can elect the chief executive directly instead of the election committee as before. Beijing promised this, but only on the condition that candidates were pre-selected.

That was what triggered the mass protests. The underlying fears, however, are that China will interfere more and more in Hong Kong politics and thus undermine the guaranteed autonomy and freedoms.

Will Hong Kong continue to have a special status?

According to the agreements with Great Britain, China is only obliged to grant Hong Kong its existing autonomy until 2047.

It is, however, ruled out that the People's Republic will ever grant the former British colony full independence. (Stefan Binder, July 1st, 2017)