Did you know that Hong Kong used to be ruled by Britain? Back in 1841, China ceded Hong Kong to Britain during the First Opium War. Over 150 years later, the island nation was returned to its Chinese neighbors. Read on to find out what happened on the day that Hong Kong was handed back to China.

The first war

The year was 1839, and British troops occupied China in order to squash its involvement with the nation’s financial, civil, and governmental matters. As its first wartime act, Britain conquered Hong Kong, which was a scantily populated island near the shore of southeast China. Two years later, China gave up Hong Kong to the English when it put its signature on the Convention of Chuenpi agreement. By 1842, China inscribed the Treaty of Nanking, which brought the First Opium War to a close.

A world divided

As soon as England acquired Hong Kong, the island prospered as a center of commercial trade and distribution throughout the East and the West. In fact, Hong Kong was doing so well that the British were actually awarded another 99 years of control over the colony during the Second Convention of Peking in 1898. In late 1984, the English and Chinese governments finally agreed to give Hong Kong back to China as long as China retained Hong Kong’s system of capitalization.

One country, two systems

It was July 1, 1997, when the Brits formally handed the island of Hong Kong back to the Chinese during an official ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The elaborate event was attended by various dignitaries from China, England, and other countries. Hong Kong’s new chief executive, Tung Chee Hwa, even created the “one country, two systems” concept in order to maintain the island’s roots as the financial gateway of Asia.