Hong Kong

Hong Kong in the Second World War

Hong Kong, an area of 410 square miles on the south coast of China became part of the British Empire as a result of the Treaty of Nanking (1842). On the 1st July, 1898, Hong Kong was leased to Britain for a period of 99 years.

The day after Pearl Harbor the Japanese Army attacked the colony and although British forces provided valiant resistance they were forced to surrender on 25th December 1941.

British forces recaptured Hong Kong on 30th August 1945. During the Chinese Civil War a large number of refugees entered Hong Kong and the population of the colony increased from one to four and half million between 1946 and 1949.

Hong Kong became an increasingly prosperous centre for the manufacturing production of domestic and electrical goods, international commerce and banking.

In 1984 the British government agreed, in return for guarantees about civil and economic freedoms, to hand back all of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

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Last updated: 16th December, 2001

Primary Sources

(1) George Orwell, BBC radio broadcast (20th December 1941)

The Japanese successes are still very serious for us. At present the pressure of Japanese troops has died down in Malaya, where heavy casualties have been inflicted upon them. Large Indian reinforcements have been landed in Rangoon. The Governor of Hong Kong states that heavy fighting is in progress, on the island itself.

In all this we must remember that the Japanese power, though great, can only aim at a rapid outright victory. The three Axis powers together can produce 60 million tons of steel every year, whereas the USA alone can produce about 88 million. This in itself is not a striking difference. But Japan cannot send help to Germany, and Germany cannot send help to Japan. For the Japanese only produce 7 million tons of steel a year. For steel, as for many other things, they must depend on the stores they have ready.

If the Japanese seem to be making a wild attempt, we must remember that many of them think it their duty to their Emperor, who is their God, to conquer the whole world. This is not a new idea in Japan. Hideyoshi when he died in 1598 was trying to conquer the whole world known to him, and he knew about India and Persia. It was because he failed that Japan closed the country to all foreigners.

In January of this year, to take a recent example, a manifesto appeared in the Japanese press signed by Japanese Admirals and Generals stating that it was Japan's mission to set Burma and India free. Japan was of course to do this by conquering them. What it would be like to be free under the heel of Japan the Chinese can tell us, and the Koreans.