What happened to Hong Kong? Is it true that it is now 100% part of China?

Former British colony then passed to China The July 1, 1997currently Hong Kong is under the government of Beijing in what is called the model “One country, two systems”. The system should presuppose greater freedom and autonomy for the city, but in recent years China has increasingly integrated Hong Kong into the authoritarian dynamics of the rest of the country, despite numerous protests since 2014 and the request for democratic elections.

Currently Hong Kong appears as an autonomous territory with the status of special administrative region of China: is formed by the island of Hong Kong which is located in the South China Sea, from the peninsula of Kowloon and by more than 200 small islands, called New Territories. It is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, as it is inhabited by more than 7 million inhabitants enclosed in a surface of 2,754 km2. The name Hong Kong means “incense-scented port” and in fact the city is also called “scented port”. Let's delve into the recent history of the area and the current situation.

English rule over Hong Kong and the transition to China

Hong Kong was occupied by the British during the Opium War, 1840-42and was ceded by the Chinese government to the United Kingdom in 1842 with the Treaty of Nanjing. Later the territories of Kowloon and the over 200 small uninhabited islands that form the New Territories were annexed.

With the birth of People's Republic of China In the 1949 relations between the Beijing government and the United Kingdom favored it economical progress of Hong Kong, famous above all for its thriving maritime economy and its commercial port. The city was also refuge for many Chinese citizens fleeing the civil war.

It was just the July 1, 1997with an agreement between the United Kingdom and China, that the entire territory of Hong Kong formally returned under the Chinese rule, with the status of a special administrative region. Applying the so-called “one country, two systems” model, the Beijing government sought to concede to Hong Kong, at least until 2047some democratic elements that are not present in the rest of mainland China, mainly dealing with foreign and defense policy.

The passage under Chinese control, however, led to the application of amendments to the Constitution which in fact have narrowed the civil and political liberties of Hong Kong: restrictions on universal suffrage, ban on demonstrations with very severe penalties and prison for political opponents and activists. In the 2004 the Beijing government has even introduced one law according to which political or electoral reforms could not be implemented without the approval of the central government, therefore including the possibility of direct appointment of the head of government.

The protests of 2014

Faced with these restrictions on civil and political liberties, in Hong Kong in 2014 numerous have begun protestsincluding the famous one “umbrella revolution”which lasted 76 days, in which the 1997 Treaty between China and the United Kingdom was called into question and with which the possibility of obtaining the Universal suffrage to have democratic elections. The protests continued in the following years: both in 2017 that in 2019 anti-Chinese establishment factions began to grow more and more, especially following violent repression law enforcement agencies and a Chinese government bill on national security. The latter would allow extradition to China for some crimes including those linked to political opposition, which therefore silence any type of dissentaccentuating an authoritarian type of government that does not take into account the autonomist demands of Hong Kong citizens.

Protests for universal suffrage, 2014 (credits: Thomas Au)

The current situation in Hong Kong

In March 2024, a national security ordinance, the so-called, was passed in Hong Kong Article 23 of the Fundamental Law (Basic Law), i.e. the constitutional charter of the island. The name derives precisely from article 23 of the same and increases the repressive powers on the part of police on all actions that may represent a threat to national security. For example it allows closed processes, discretionary arrests for crimes that may threaten internal stability, ban on political activities in the territory. This amendment has only exacerbated the climate of internal tensions which had begun in the last ten years, also decreasing the interest of foreign companies in Hong Kong, which is in fact losing the economic centrality it had in recent years. Currently therefore, although the Beijing government has declared the “One Country, Two Systems” model repression and the authoritarian drift undermine the foundations of the territory's democracy, making Hong Kong increasingly politically dependent on the Chinese central government and distancing the democratic aspirations of the island which is in fact under the control of Beijing.

brief history of taiwan