Early history

  • 618–907: Archaeological evidence suggests that Hong Kong has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. During the Tang dynasty, the territory was a fishing village.
  • 16th–18th century: The Portuguese are the first Europeans to visit Hong Kong in the 16th century, but it is the British who establish a permanent presence in the area in the late 18th century.

Opium Wars 

  • Early 19th century: The British begin importing opium into China to counterbalance their dependence on tea, silk and porcelain exported by China. This leads to two wars between the two nations, known as the Opium Wars.
  • 1842: The Treaty of Nanjing is signed in 1842, which cedes Hong Kong Island to the British as a colony. It is established as a free port, attracting merchants and immigrants from around the world.
  • 1860: Britain also wins the Second Opium War, forcing the Qing Empire to cede Kowloon in 1860, while leasing the New Territories for 99 years from 1898. 

British rule

  • 1842: The Union Flag is raised for the first time. The population of Hong Kong island is between 6,000 and 7,450, mainly consisting of Tanka fishermen and Hakka charcoal burners living in several coastal villages.
  • 1850s: Many Chinese people emigrate from China to Hong Kong due to the Taiping Rebellion. Other events, such as floods, typhoons and famine in mainland China also play a role in establishing Hong Kong as a place to seek refuge.
  • 1941–1945: Hong Kong is occupied by Japan during World War II and suffers significant damage.
  • 1946: After the war, the British resume control and work to rebuild the city.
  • 1949: The Communist Party of China takes power in mainland China, leading to a wave of refugees fleeing to Hong Kong.
  • 1950s to 1970s: Hong Kong experiences rapid economic growth, becoming a major port, a manufacturing hub and an important financial centre. High life expectancy, literacy, per–capita income and other socio-economic measures attest to Hong Kong's achievements leading to a population boom.
  • 1980s: Talks between China and Britain begin over the future of Hong Kong, leading to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, which outlines the terms of the handover of Hong Kong to China.

Handover to China

  • 1997: The British hands over control of Hong Kong to China under the principle of "one country, two systems," which allows for a high degree of autonomy in the city.
  • 2003: Protests erupt against proposed national security legislation, which is later withdrawn.
  • 2014: The "Umbrella Movement" protests for universal suffrage, lasting for 79 days, result in no significant political change.
  • 2019: Widespread pro-democracy protests erupt in response to a proposed extradition bill, which would have allowed suspects to be transferred to mainland China for trial. The protests trigger widespread violence, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
  • 2020: The Chinese government imposes a national security law in Hong Kong, criminalising secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. This law is widely criticised as an infringement on the city's autonomy and has led to the arrests of several pro-democracy activists.
  • 2022: Hong Kong is one of the few countries and territories to pursue a "zero-Covid" policy by closing all its borders soon after the emergence of the virus in Wuhan, China. Until December 2022, even people with mild and asymptomatic cases were subjected to hospitalisation and sometimes isolation extending over several weeks.

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