Hong Kong became a British Crown colony in three phases. Between 1840 and 1842, Britain seized the Chinese island as part of the Opium War, so-called because the immediate occasion was the confiscation of British merchants' opium that had been shipped into China in violation of Chinese laws. As early as 1800, China had prohibited importation of opium, but European and American shippers continued the lucrative trade. The Treaty of Nanking in 1842 made Hong Kong a British possession. In 1860, another British-initiated military adventure led to the acquisition of Kowloon and Stonecutters Island. These became part of Hong Kong. Finally, in 1898, the British forced the Chinese to lease to them the New Territories for 99 years; these were administered as Hong Kong territory.
Until 1842, Hong Kong had been Chinese, but it played only a marginal role in national affairs. 1 Populated by peasants and fisherpeople, all but a few lived in small villages in traditional Chinese fashion. Many of these villages had tiny schools financed by local people who were sufficiently wealthy to contribute. There was no tuition and fees were minimal. Children attended when they could and remained, typically, for 2 or 3 years. They gained an unsteady grasp of reading and writing. One did not need either for success in fishing or farming although the elementary numeracy they commanded was of practical use.
More than opium profits attracted the British to Hong Kong. They sought to make the colony into the principal port of entry for the world's trade with China. Constituting at the time the greatest naval and economic power in the world, Britain was well equipped for the task. It needed laborers who were in plentiful supply in Canton and surrounding territory; this great Chinese city lay
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Publication information: Book title: Asian-American Education:Historical Background and Current Realities. Contributors: Meyer Weinberg - Author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 205.
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