Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day, or just Establishment Day, is observed every year on July 1, commemorating its freedom from the colonial clutches of the United Kingdom and the transfer of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China. This is also the day when the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was established. There are several officially organized fireworks displays in the evening in the region to celebrate the event. It is a big day that also marks the miraculous economic surge in the region that fuelled innovation, development, and entrepreneurship.
History of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
Hong Kong was given to the U.K. by China after losing in the Opium Wars, which lasted from 1839 to 1860. The latter won, opening up the lucrative drug trade for the British, and peace negotiations proceeded quickly. These resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing, because of which China had to pay Britain a large indemnity, cede Hong Kong, and increase the number of treaty ports.
Two more treaties gave the U.K. control over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. Thus, British Hong Kong became a dependent territory of the colonial British Empire from 1841 to 1997, except for the period from 1941 to 1945 when it was under Japanese occupation.
After years of negotiations, the British and the Chinese signed a formal agreement in 1984 approving the turnover of the island in exchange for China’s pledge of preserving Hong Kong’s capitalist system.
It was negotiated that the colony would be part of China, but that it would get to keep the political system that was already in place, creating the “one country, two systems” structure. This appeased the worries many people had that the handover to China would strip away the systems and freedom that make Hong Kong a capitalist, laissez-faire economy.
A handover ceremony was held on the night of 30 June 1997 in Wan Chai, which lasted till the next morning, when the British turned over Hong Kong back to China. The main British guest was Charles, Prince of Wales, who read a farewell speech on behalf of the British Queen. The newly appointed Prime Minister of the U.K., Tony Blair, and other high-ranking ministers were also present, along with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day timeline
The peace treaty is signed, ending the First Opium War and handing over the control of Hong Kong to the U.K.
Japan occupies Hong Kong during World War I.
Hong Kong is established as one of the region's economic powerhouses, with a surging economy thanks to high-technology industries.
Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese after over 150 years of British rule.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day FAQs
Is Hong Kong a part of China?
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Owing to its special status, the region exercises a high degree of autonomy and enjoys executive, legislative and independent judicial power.
Is Hong Kong a poor place?
Roughly one in five Hongkongers, or around 1.65 million people, are living in poverty. This is the highest number in 12 years.
What kind of people are in Hong Kong?
Most of the people are of Cantonese Han Chinese descent with many tracing their ancestral home to the Guangdong province. But the city also holds other Han Chinese subgroups including the Hakka, Hoklo, Teochew, Shanghainese, Sichuanese, and Taiwanese.
How to Observe Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
Visit Hong Kong
Visit Hong Kong to celebrate the day. You might get to see officially-organized extravagant fireworks displays, parades, and maybe even protest marches during the period.
Share with your friends
Share the story of Hong Kong’s long journey to freedom with your friends and family. Even if they’re not into history, the long-winded story, multiple wars, and ongoing struggles and controversies are sure to keep them interested.
Appreciate their culture
Appreciate works of literature, art, and entertainment produced by the people of Hong Kong in a bid to better understand the region. You can also try out some of their cuisine like fishball, stinky tofu, and “pineapple” buns, among others.
5 Facts About Hong Kong That Will Blow Your Mind
Hong Kong means ‘fragrant harbor’ in Chinese, and Kowloon means ‘nine dragons.’
You may not find floor number four
Many buildings tend to omit the number four when it comes to floors because the Chinese word for ‘four’ sounds like the word for ‘death’ and is therefore considered unlucky.
Feng Shui is common
The rooftop of Central’s H.S.B.C. Hong Kong building has two rods in place to deflect bad energy, among other designs for Feng Shui.
Their airport is huge
The Hong Kong International Airport is the size of 20 football fields.
It has a marvelous skyline
The region has more than 8,000 shimmering skyscrapers.
Why Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day is Important
It’s very recent
We often like to think that colonialism and imperialism are things of the past and something that happened eons ago. But Hong Kong attaining its freedom only in 1997 helps us keep a fresh perspective by reminding us that these evils are not as old as we thought.
A lot of effort went into it
It was only after more than 150 years of British occupation and negotiations that the territory was handed back to China. Needless to say, the journey was an arduous one that involved a lot of struggle.
It’s a meaningful day for the region
The day marks Hong Kong’s freedom from the U.K. and the people are not shy when it comes to showing their appreciation for this. Fireworks displays and processions and parades mark this important day.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day dates