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Before 1842 & Opium War – The British, Opium And Money Were The Roots of The Unheard Island

March 10, 2021

Nobody can ever associate Hong Kong with the image of an unheard island with only a few settlements. Nobody can imagine Hong Kong being a favorite safe haven for refugees during ancient Chinese war times. Nobody can believe Hong Kong had originated in opium trades. But the legacy of Imperialism had made it all happen.

What was so appealing about the isolated fishing village that it was chosen to be the base of the British? The story all started from how the British wanted to conquer Portuguese and the Dutch to be the main power of Asia for trades in the 17th century. Taking the successful story of the latter two countries on expanding their economic scope, the British monopoly East India Company was greatly benefitted from the sumptuous profits from trading silk, Chinese ceramics, tea, and opium in the only permitted port of Canton (now Guangzhou).

Greed only grows. The British did not stop scouting for other suitable places for more business trades, and one of which was Hong Kong. But mixed opinions about its potential for future development did emerge: some were skeptical about whether the island would bring long term benefits, whilst some were worried it did not worth the huge investment and would possibly deteriorate the British Empire’s relation with China.

But the natural harbor of Hong Kong speaks for itself. The deep-water harbor surrounded by mountains as shields from typhoons won over all skepticism, not to mention proximity to China for trades was the biggest consideration. The British corporates like Jardine and Matheson also paid great contributions to convince the Royals to set up base in Hong Kong in order to continue their opium businesses with China.

Safe to say – The British, opium and money were the roots of the unheard island.

#britishempire #hkhistory #hongkongcolonialhistory #hognkonghistory #opiumwar

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Peggy Lam

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