How Hong Kong Changed Countries

This video was made possible by Dashlane. Stay safe online for free by signing up at This is Hong Kong. 177 years ago, as the conclusion of the First
Opium War, the United Kingdom and China signed a treaty that read, “His Majesty the Emperor
of China cedes to Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, etc., the Island of Hong-Kong,
to be possessed in perpetuity by her Britannic Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and to
be governed by such Laws and Regulations as Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, etc.,
shall see fit to direct.” With that, the British empire got just a little
bit bigger. The population of the island in that year
was reported as 7,450. Nobody would have imagined what this island,
dotted only by a few fishing villages, would become. Fast forward 18 years: another Opium War,
another treaty. “It has now been agreed between the Governments
of Great Britain and China that the limits of British territory shall be enlarged under
lease.” Fast forward 38 years: the third and final
agreement. “It has now been agreed between the Governments
of Great Britain and China that the limits of British territory shall be enlarged under
lease to the extent indicated generally on the annexed map… The term of this lease shall be ninety-nine
years.” Ninety-nine years: as good as forever to the
signers of this agreement. This forever, though, had an end and that
end was 1997. That didn’t matter at first, though. Hong Kong grew and grew and grew and grew
into one of the richest, most powerful, and most developed cities in the world. It became the business center of Asia. It thrived under a strong capitalistic economic
model but then, as forever drew nearer, a question loomed over the city. Was it really going to go back to China? That’s the question British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher had for Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader, when she visited Beijing
in 1982. The answer was effectively yes, in China’s
eyes, Hong Kong would return in 1997. Now, it’s important to note that it was
only the lease of this portion, the New Territories, that expired in 1997. Kowloon and Hong Kong island were ceded in
perpetuity which meant that according to the terms of the agreements Britain could have
kept these areas. Hong Kong as a whole, though, is small enough
already and the city had very much grown into the New Territories so it was decided early
on that these negotiations were effectively over what would happen to Hong Kong as a whole—it
would be too impractical to divide up the quite integrated city into different parts. Eventually, after years of back and forth,
a decision was reached in the last days of 1984: Hong Kong would go back to China in
1997 but the Hong Kong Way of life, with a capitalistic system and democratic government,
would remain untouched for fifty years after the handover until 2047. Hong Kong would become a semi-autonomous region
of China. With that, a clock started ticking. There were 12 years, 6 months, and 12 days
left until Hong Kong would change from British to Chinese. In those twelve and a half years an enormous
amount of planning and preparation was conducted in order to carry out one of the only modern
instances of the change in sovereignty of a city as large and influential as Hong Kong
between two countries so different. In fact, this was the first time a capitalistic
territory had been handed over to a communist state. Conducting such a monumental shift was no
easy feat. As such a significant business hub, Hong Kong
based companies were some of the first to make their handover plans. There was, at the time, a lot of uncertainty
about what would happen to the territory post-Handover so many companies restructured to be legally
registered elsewhere. Jardine Matheson, for example, one of the
most prominent Hong Kong companies, moved their legal headquarters to Bermuda and their
stock listing to Singapore even if their de-facto headquarters remained in Hong Kong. HSBC, which stands for the Hong Kong and Shanghai
Banking Corporation, legally transferred many of their assets to their London office, as
well. Companies typically didn’t leave Hong Kong
but rather set themselves up to be able to in case the Handover went badly. In addition to companies, individual people
made their Handover plans as well. Now, opinions were mixed on this grand change. There was no one resounding view on whether
the change in sovereignty was good or bad for Hong Kong. When surveyed in 1991, for example, about
57% of respondents were confident in Hong Kong’s future while 35% were not. Of those 35% who were not, many chose to move
elsewhere and there began a period of mass migration away from Hong Kong. A staggering 800,000 people left in the twelve
and a half years leading up to the handover, according to estimates. Overwhelmingly, Hong Kongers settled in Australia
or Canada, likely because they were commonwealth countries, and the US. Over 110,000 Hong Kongers settled in Vancouver
alone—a city still shaped by this wave of mass migration. Many, though, were just migrating temporarily
for a few years to gain Canadian citizenship. With this, like companies, they would have
a way to get out of Hong Kong if things went wrong. Hong Kongers could also get a special type
of passport that was first introduced in 1985 in the lead-up to the Handover. It was called the British National Overseas
passport and it works differently to a British passport. It gives visa-free access to 118 countries,
fewer than a full British passport, and noticeably, does not give the right for someone to live
and work in the UK. Holders can only stay in the UK for up to
six months and are not considered European Union citizens. These passports are still valid today and
can be renewed for anyone born in Hong Kong prior to the handover. There was a huge and increasing rush of people
at registration for these passports in the years leading up to the Handover with millions
overall being issued. While today’s Hong Kong Special administrative
region passport is more powerful in terms of visa-free access to countries, holders
of British National Overseas passports, as British nationals, get the same consular assistance
and protection as a full British citizen in case a holder runs into trouble outside the
UK, at least on paper. For this reason, hundreds of thousands still
renew these passports to this day despite their redundancy. As the date of the Handover drew nearer, though,
the government started focusing on the changes they needed to make. Of course there were enormous changes to the
entire structure of government, the laws, the legal system, and more but there were
also small changes to be made, plenty of which were visual. For example, they needed a new flag. The previous flag, which included the British
Union Jack, certainly wouldn’t work under Chinese rule. A contest was held with 7,000 submissions
but all were rejected. In the end, one of the contest’s judges,
Architect Tao Ho, came up with this design which was eventually approved to be the new
flag in April 1990. But there were plenty of other signs of British-ness
in Hong Kong. The emblem of the police force included a
crown and the word, “royal,” so that had to be changed too. They eventually came up with a new design
that swapped out British symbols and replaced all uniforms at a cost of $2.8 million US
dollars. The word, “royal,” in fact, was removed
from basically every institution from the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club to the Royal Hong
Kong Golf Club. They just became the Hong Kong Jockey Club
and the Hong Kong Golf Club. There was just plenty of sign changing city-wide. Hong Kong’s post-boxes were another symbol
that needed altering. Most, at the time, were imported from Britain
and therefore were the iconic red pillar box style featuring a crown. Most of these were progressively removed with
all being painted green to distinguish them from the UK’s. As the days of British rule dwindled, focus
shifted towards planning the actual event of the handover. Now, this event was of enormous significance
to Hong Kong, China, Britain, and the world. The BBC described it as the biggest planned
event they had ever covered. What was known was that the event would be
centered around midnight on the night of July 30th, 1997—the exact moment of the reversion
to Chinese rule. As you can imagine, the two governments, Britain
and China, each crucially desiring the best possible optics for their side, negotiated
relentlessly on the details of the event. For example, there was a long dispute on which
flags would raise and lower in which order. Britain wanted the British Hong Kong flag
lowered first followed by the Union Jack flag to signify a dignified retreat from the colony. China wanted the Chinese flag to be raised
at the same time as the British flag was lowered to signify an instantaneous resumption in
sovereignty. China also wanted the new Hong Kong flag to
replace the British Hong Kong flag on the same flagpole. In the end, a compromise was reached to lower
the Union Jack and British Hong Kong flags at the same time then raise the Chinese and
new Hong Kong flags at the same time. There were also other subtle negotiated details
such as: the Convention center, where the event was to be held, was designed to have
chairs facing south towards the stage. For this event, though, a stage was built
on the north side so the attendees would look north possibly for the symbolism of looking
towards China. Eventually, though, the meticulously negotiated
invites went out to thousands of dignitaries and VIP’s. One week before the handover, the Royal Yacht
Britannia sailed into Victoria harbor and moored to the pier. It would serve as home to Prince Charles,
who would represent the United Kingdom, during the handover. Over the next week, the majority of the handover’s
VIP’s, including Prince Charles, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former British
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, American Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and
plenty more arrived in the city. That week was a week of lasts: the last meeting
of the Hong Kong executive council, the last changing of the guards at the British garrison,
and then it was just the last day of Britain in Hong Kong—Monday, June 30th, 1997. The process kicked off with a 4pm ceremony
at Government House marking the final departure of Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong
Kong, from what had been his official residence for the previous five years. At 4:30, that first of his goodbyes was completed
and he was driven to the Royal Yacht Britannia to join the rest of the British delegation. Shortly after, around 5:30, a chartered Air
China 747 touched down at Kai Tak airport carrying Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Premier
Li Peng, and the rest of the Chinese delegation. Then, at 7:11 pm, the sun set on British Hong
Kong for the final time. Minutes later, the 4,000 lucky individuals
invited to the handover ceremony gathered at the convention center for a cocktail reception. At 8pm, an enormous fireworks display started
in Victoria harbor and then at 9 the handover guests sat down for their banquet dinner at
the Convention Center. Simultaneously, around 500 Chinese People’s
Liberation Army troops were allowed over the border to move into position and ensure that
there would never be a lapse in the defense of Hong Kong. At 30 minutes to midnight, dinner was over
and the ceremony began. Prince Charles gave remarks bidding the territory
goodbye on behalf of the Queen then about a minute to midnight, God Save the Queen was
played and the British and British Hong Kong flags were slowly and simultaneously lowered,
just as negotiated. Then, in an instant, when the clock struck
midnight, Hong Kong was Chinese again, just like that. The new Hong Kong and Chinese flags were then
raised to the Chinese national anthem and Chinese President Jiang Zemin gave a speech. 15 minutes past midnight, Prince Charles and
governor Chris Patten boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia and sailed out of Victoria harbor
for the final time. Prime Minister Tony Blair and most of the
rest of the British delegation then boarded a chartered British Airways 777 at Kai Tak
Airport which swiftly took off bound for London Heathrow. By 3:30 am, all the British forces tasked
with guarding Hong Kong until midnight had boarded flights and taken off from the Chinese
territory and with that, Britain was gone from Hong Kong, for good. Whenever I talk about Dashlane, the password
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  1. Hey all, in case you don't know already, the numbers in the bottom, left corner of the video correspond to the sources of information at the bottom of the description. Many of those are good further reading on the topic.

    Also, I just want to acknowledge one small narration slip-up. At 7:14 I say, "What was known was that the event would be centered around midnight on the night of July 30th, 1997." That should be June 30th, 1997.

  2. From the comments, I started to realize how great effects the Stockholm syndrome could be. Maybe I'm a bit exaggerating, but the logic behind should be the same.

  3. If HKers do not want to be Chinese and still want to live under UK rule.I suggest the UK accept all of them as citizen since British says it has responsible to HK. i think that is a win win /happy ending to both sides,but as i know, the Hkers' requirement was rejected by the UK.

  4. Why its impractical to keep kowloon and hong kong island when british gives middle finger to spain over gibraltar? How big gibraltar?

    Why dont the british admitting its cowardice in defending the remaining territories? Brits collapsed on the face of onslaught by 3 1/2 dicky japs during the ww2……


  5. its shameful how little the british are supporting the people of hong kong currently, I understand that the colonial history is awful and Britain practically can do very little except help asylum seekers to a greater extent (which is unlikely considering the torries) but at least public statements condemning the loss of freedom and sinicization is required

  6. What was the "Democratic System" that existed in HK before 1997? Throughout UK rule HK was governed by a Governor appointed by Westminster.
    What did HKers vote for? Street sweeper?

  7. British: let's sign a treaty for 99 years because that's like perpetuity
    Also the Brits: we could keep the main island with downtown central business district forever, but why bother?
    No wonder why these looney Brits all drive in the wrong lane

  8. Pretty much the last significant territory of the British Empire when you think about it – though it didn't really mean fuck all to us, tbh.

  9. hongkong is what happens when asians and whites unite, if but for a small time, until parasite spanese jesuits start instigating wars.

  10. If you think HK is at the risk of losing her democracy at 1997, please tell me, was HK really democratic before 1997? Universal suffrage was never there!

  11. UK handed over HK on the promise ( and a written legal treaty to enforce it) that china would be respectful to the democratic laws, but against the will of people living in Hong Kong the UK handed it over to honour the agreement made 99 years prior, one of the worse decisions the UK has done, as china is now showing dishonor to the treaty that was made, wired behaviour from a country that has vowed to never start a war again and yet continues to try claim what isn't theirs (borders at sea near Japan) and what isn't all theirs HK (until 2047) by force…

  12. Hong Kong should be left alone without British or China. They are cantonese, they want to stand by themselves.

  13. The British passport that they give to HKers don't eve allow residency in UK like that of Myanmar's. Those who rallied brithsh colonial flags should let that sink in.

  14. I wonder, and this is just a suggestion, that if the Silk Road were extended through NK it might bring a certain amount of prosperity to that country?

  15. Smh, the handover only should have been to the ROK if it had occurred in 1927, not 1997. Anyone who thinks it should have been returned to Taiwan has a fundamental misunderstanding of international law. That’s like saying Russia should not have a seat at the UN because the the seat ‘actually’ belongs to the USSR

  16. Turns out if you were born in a first world liberal democracy and you're repatriated to a dirty autocratic shithole against your will you aren't going to like it very much

  17. Frankly they should've handed over Hong Kong to Republic of China ( Taiwan ) – they're the legal government of China.

  18. A correction: you don’t have to be born in HK to hold British National (overseas) passport
    But if one of your parents is Hong konger by origin and you were born before July 1st 97 then you are eligible to hold BNO passport

    I’m saying this cause my dad is Hong konger and I wasn’t born in HK and I got BNO passport….

  19. HK, before 1997 – haven, HK, after 1997- Xi Jing Ping's personal banking accounts, His corrupt gangs money laundering city, international city for RMB exchange to US$ financial facility, billions of US$ HK reserved fund(saved over 99 years with British reign) has been withdrawn by Xi jinping, MFP for Hk government employees retirement fund accounts has been switched to communist china's banks in HK, set up satellite companies in HK to do business with N.Korea, Iraq, Iran and Syria. HK is paradise for illegal gangs activities for communist china. Sad consequence. HK is dead.

  20. Haha Hongkongers definitely aren't putting up with Chinas bullshit. They are their own damn country now 😂🤣🖕

  21. I kind of feel that the Brits gaining Hong Kong via the opium wars and turning it into what it is today is like someone beating up you and your family, forcing their way into your house then sorting out your finances, cleaning the place up, building an extension and increasing its value. Not really right but … Look… Your house nice now.

  22. My only observation is that, having been to HK twice (I am British, I visited in 2015 & 17) and mainland China, they are very different places. The effect of 'us' being there was still apparent. Road signs and layouts, their police, use of english and small mannerisms such as saying 'excuse me' when sneezing, holding doors etc etc.

  23. For 150 years every HK British governor was appointed by the UK government and not elected by the HK people / now that HK is back under China rule the UK government is supporting democracy in HK why is that ?

  24. Mainlanders are taught socialism and communism while Hong Kongers are taught democracy and freedom. That explains why many Hong Kongers do not want to be ruled by communist China. Sadly, democracy and freedom is dying in Hong Kong.

  25. 一堆外国人在这里sad sad sad,真的是sad你妈卖批,明明就什么都没有去深入了解,还sad个🐔巴,关他们jb事!?

  26. Hong Kong is a beautify territory. I was there few months ago 😁can't wait to go back again! Definitely worth visiting. I love to travel; love to take pics and videos and share my experience😁

  27. thanks for educating me, I was 7 when this happened so I had no idea. I just assumed Hong Kong was always with china.

  28. Hong Kong was never democratic, especially under British rule. They were never given universal suffrage. Get your basic facts right.

  29. I watched the whole video, but it didn't answer the title question on how Hong Kong changed countries. This was just all about the handover.

  30. If the Brit had granted full citizenship to the residents of Hongkong at that time, the outcome would have been very very different. Hongkong residents were just 2nd-3rd class citizens of the British empire.

  31. SAD, what has happened to Hong Kong, fallen into the hand of CCP, how could Kong Kong People ever believed in one country two rules, no matter what, CCPs words are never to be trusted.
    Thank God, many departed for other countries before the takeover by the communist hooligans.
    HK's fate is in the hands of Hong Kong people now, is up to you to save yourselves, do not let the bastard win.

  32. 香港は中國のせいで犯されている




    Hong Kong Is Fucked Up, Because Of China

  33. This is a fair documentary narrative for Hong Hong. However, some comments down below just spoiled and contradicted what the documentary trying to present. When people gotten something by force not by any form of trade, that is called robbery. In any sense, there’s no reason to claim the robber as the rightful owner. Some people simple don’t like China simply because China is a communist country. But that cannot justify why Hong Kong cannot return to China. Like it or not, Hong Kong has to return and it is already a pert of China.

  34. Back then, the marcing of British flag bearer troops were okay. Hk flag bearer sux. Chinense flag bearer were superb.

  35. I remember watching the handover in 1997!! It was so sad to watch Hong Kong leave the Uk. But hey things change.

  36. My parents immigrated to the US from Hong Kong in 2001 a couple of years after the handover. They always talk about that day that Britain left and how it was one of the saddest moments of their life. After that they did everything possible to leave the country and moved to San Diego, and a couple of years later I was born here 🙂

  37. The CCP is just another of China's dinasties and as all previous dinasties, they come and go.

    However, to be fair, the question here is about sovereignty, no matter who is ruling. The New Territories are part of mainland and that is a fact. Are you willing to give it back in exchange of independence? I mean, even UK understood this core issue and that is why it was handed over. Actual HK can't survive without those territories or good luck trying to squeeze millions of people there.

    So, as I see it, either you leave and work your *ss off as many chinese immigrants around the world or you try to negotiate with the current ruling party. Nobody said it is easy, but if you think the governing party will give away the New Territories just as simple as that, you are being naive.

  38. maybe these young HK "protesters" don't know or remember, that when their city has been British colony they couldn't even vote for their government, it has been appointed by the British monarch, so they want to be occupied again?

  39. The great people of Hong Kong should have become an independent country. Fuck the Chinese government. From Australia.

  40. Thanks for mentioning the passport. Nearly 2 million Hongkongers have a British Passport (BNO) but this passport does not allow the holder to live in the UK indefinitely. BUT, all ethnically non – Chinese residents of Hong Kong were given British citizenship. And now EU passport holders can live in the UK, including Macauese, a former Portuguese colony.

  41. Protest as of now are big. A lot of people do not want to be ruled by the Chinese. China is not waiting for 2047. Bad players those CCP dictators.

  42. No sovereign country will agree to split its land, because this is everyone's love for the country. Love Hong Kong

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