In July 1841, Hong Kong was ceded to the British in perpetuity (for an indefinite length of time) after the First Opium War. Following a few months of fighting between the British and the Chinese in China, the Emperor Tao Kuang was alarmed when Beijing was being threatened by soldiers. So, he sent his envoy to negotiate with the British. The envoy (Qi Shan) agreed to give up Hong Kong Island to Britain if they withdrew from Northern China. However, this proposition was accepted by neither the Chinese nor the British. So fighting continued. Until, in June 1841, the city of Nanking came under threat. The Chinese did not want to lose this strategic city, so this time they agreed to Britain’s terms in the Treaty of Nanking. This treaty ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain and exempted British nationals from all Chinese laws, among other conditions.
Then, in June 1898, following mass migration of Chinese from mainland China, the British government petitioned for a land extension for Hong Kong to support the growing population. They were given a larger area than was expected, which increased the size of the colony by 90% as part of the Convention of Peking. However, this land was on a 99 year lease which would come into effect from the 1st of July that year.
In the 99 years that followed, Hong Kong suffered turbulent and testing times. For example, Japan occupied Hong Kong in 1941 during the Second World War, causing food shortages and consequently many people fled to mainland China. After the war, the population dropped to 650,000 from 1.6million. Additionally, in 1967, Maoists rioted in Hong Kong for seven months, at the same time as the Cultural Revolution was happening in China. However, Hong Kong became an incredibly successful colony and in the 1980s, it became one of the world’s top ten economies.