Hong Kong profile - Timeline

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A chronology of key events:

1842 - China cedes Hong Kong island to Britain after the First Opium War. Over the decades, thousands of Chinese migrants fleeing domestic upheavals settle in the colony.

1860 - The Convention of Peking cedes Kowloon formally to Britain.

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Hong Kong was already a busy port in the 1890s, when this picture was taken after the passing of a damaging typhoon

1898 - China leases the New Territories together with 235 islands to Britain for 99 years from 1 July.

1937 - With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, Hong Kong becomes a refuge for thousands of mainland Chinese fleeing before the advancing Japanese.

1941 - Japan occupies Hong Kong. Food shortages impel many residents to flee to mainland China. The population drops from 1.6m in 1941 to 650,000 by the end of the Second World War.

1946 - Britain re-establishes civil government. Hundreds of thousands of former residents return, to be joined over next few years by refugees fleeing the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists in China.

1950s - Hong Kong enjoys economic revival based on light industries such as textiles.

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Image caption,
Japanese forces seized Hong Kong in 1941

1960s - Social discontent and labour disputes become rife among poorly-paid workforce.

1967 - Severe riots break out, mainly instigated by followers of China's Cultural Revolution.

Late 1960s - Living conditions improve and social unrest subsides.

1970s - Hong Kong is established as an "Asian Tiger" - one of the region's economic powerhouses - with a thriving economy based on high-technology industries.

Countdown to handover

1982 - Britain and China begin talks on the future of Hong Kong.

1984 - Britain and China sign Joint Declaration on the conditions under which Hong Kong will revert to Chinese rule in 1997. Under the "one country, two systems" formula, Hong Kong will become part of one communist-led country but retain its capitalist economic system and partially democratic political system for 50 years after the handover.

1989 - The massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square leads to calls for the introduction of further democratic safeguards in Hong Kong.

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Sino-British talks preceded the 1984 Joint Declaration on reversion to Chinese rule

1990 - Beijing formally ratifies Hong Kong's post-handover mini-constitution or Basic Law.

1992 April - Chris Patten becomes last British governor of Hong Kong, with a brief to oversee the colony's handover to China.

1992 October - Chris Patten announces proposals for the democratic reform of Hong Kong's institutions aimed at broadening the voting base in elections. China is outraged that it has not been consulted and threatens to tear up business contracts and overturn the reforms after it has taken control.

1992 December - Hong Kong stock market crashes.

1994 June - After nearly two years of bitter wrangling, Hong Kong's legislature introduces a stripped-down version of Chris Patten's democratic reform package. The new legislation widens the franchise but falls far short of providing for universal suffrage.

1995 - Elections held for new Legislative Council (LegCo).

One country, two systems

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Governor Chris Patten receives the Union Jack flag after it is lowered for the last time at Government House

1997 July - Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British control. Tung Chee-hwa, a Shanghai-born former shipping tycoon with no political experience, is hand-picked by Beijing to rule the territory following the takeover.

1998 May - First post-handover elections held.

2001 February - Deputy Chief Executive Anson Chan, a former deputy to Chris Patten and one of the main figures in the Hong Kong administration to oppose Chinese interference in the territory's affairs, resigns under pressure from Beijing and is replaced by Donald Tsang.

2002 June - Trial of 16 members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement arrested during a protest outside Beijing's liaison office in the territory. Falun Gong remains legal in Hong Kong, despite having been banned in mainland China in 1999, and the trial is seen as a test of the freedoms Beijing guaranteed to respect after the handover. The 16 are found guilty of causing a public obstruction.

2002 September - Tung Chee-hwa's administration releases proposals for controversial new anti-subversion law known as Article 23.

2003 March-April - Both China and Hong Kong are hit by the pneumonia-like Sars virus. Strict quarantine measures are enforced to stop the disease spreading. Hong Kong is declared free of Sars in June.

Calls for reform

2003 July - A day after a visit to the territory by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, 500,000 people march against Article 23. Two Hong Kong government members resign. The bill is shelved indefinitely.

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A planned anti-subversion law sparked protests in 2003; Article 23 was subsequently shelved

2004 April - China rules that its approval must be sought for any changes to Hong Kong's election laws, giving Beijing the right to veto any moves towards more democracy, such as direct elections for the territory's chief executive.

2004 July - Some 200,000 people mark the seventh anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese rule by taking part in a demonstration protesting Beijing's ruling against electing the next chief executive by universal suffrage.

Britain accuses China of interfering in Hong Kong's constitutional reform process in a manner inconsistent with self-governance guarantees agreed before the handover.

2004 September - Pro-Beijing parties retain their majority in LegCo elections widely seen as a referendum on Hong Kong's aspirations for greater democracy. In the run-up to the poll, human rights groups accuse Beijing of creating a "climate of fear" aimed at skewing the result.

2004 December - Chinese President Hu Jintao delivers public rebuke to Tung Chee-hwa, telling him to improve his administration's performance.

Change of guard

2005 March - Amid mounting criticism of his rule, Tung Chee-hwa resigns, citing failing health. He is succeeded in June by Donald Tsang.

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Donald Tsang: controversy over links with tycoons dogged his last months as chief executive

2005 May - Hong Kong's highest court overturns the convictions of eight of the Falun Gong members who were found guilty of causing an obstruction in the territory in 2002.

2005 June - Tens of thousands of people commemorate sixteenth anniversary of crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Hong Kong is the only part of China where the 1989 events are marked.

2005 September - Pro-democracy members of LegCo make unprecented visit to Chinese mainland. Eleven members of the 25-strong pro-democracy group had been banned from the mainland for 16 years.

2005 December - Pro-democracy legislators block Mr Tsang's plans for limited constitutional reforms, saying they do not go far enough. Mr Tsang said his plans - which would have changed electoral processes without introducing universal suffrage - went as far as Beijing would allow.

2006 March - Pope Benedict XVI elevates Bishop Joseph Zen, the leader of Hong Kong's 300,000 Catholics and an outspoken advocate of democracy, to the post of cardinal. China warns Cardinal Zen to stay out of politics.

2006 July - Tens of thousands of people rally in support of full democracy.

2007 January - New rules aim to restrict the number of pregnant women from mainland China who come to Hong Kong to give birth. Many had been drawn by the prospect of gaining Hong Kong residency rights for their children and evading China's one-child policy.

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One country, two systems: Hong Kong celebrated the 10th anniversary of the handover from British to Chinese rule in 2007

2007 April - Chief Executive Donald Tsang is appointed to a new five-year term after winning elections in March.

2007 July - Hong Kong marks 10th anniversary of handover to China. New government under Chief Executive Donald Tsang is sworn in. Plans for full democracy unveiled.


2007 December - Beijing says it will allow the people of Hong Kong to directly elect their own leader in 2017 and their legislators by 2020. Mr Tsang hails this as "a timetable for obtaining universal suffrage", but pro-democracy campaigners express disappointment at the protracted timescale.

2008 September - Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp wins more than a third of seats in legislative elections, retaining a key veto over future bills.

Image source, AFP
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Fears about the potential erosion of democratic freedoms grew in 2014

2009 June - Tens of thousands of people attend a vigil in Hong Kong on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The territory is the only part of China to mark the anniversary.

2009 December - Hong Kong authorities unveil proposals for political reform in response to pressure for greater democracy, including an enlarged Legislative Council; critics say the moves do not go far enough.

2010 May - Five opposition MPs are returned to their seats, in by-elections they triggered by quitting - a move intended to pressure China to grant the territory full democracy.

Opposition Democratic Party, traditionally hostile to Beijing, holds its first talks with a Chinese official since the 1997 handover.

2012 July - Leung Chun-ying takes office as chief executive, succeeding Donald Tsang whose last months in office were dogged by controversy over his links with wealthy businessmen.

2012 September - Pro-democracy parties retain their power of veto over new laws in Legislative Council elections, but perform less well than expected. Turnout, at over 50%, was higher than in 2008.

2013 June - Hundreds march in support of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong after exposing secret US surveillance programmes.

2014 June - More than 90% of the nearly 800,000 people taking part in an unofficial referendum vote in favour of giving the public a say in short-listing candidates for future elections of the territory's chief executive. Beijing condemns the vote as illegal.

Pro-democracy protests

2014 July - Tens of thousands of protesters take part in what organisers say could be Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy rally in a decade.

2014 August - Chinese government rules out a fully democratic election for Hong Kong leader in 2017, saying that only candidates approved by Beijing will be allowed to run.

2014 September-November - Pro-democracy demonstrators occupy the city centre for weeks in protest at the Chinese government's decision to limit voters' choices in the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election. More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the height of the Occupy Central protests.

2014 December - Authorities take down Mong Kok protest camp, leaving a few hundred protesters at two camps at Admiralty and Causeway Bay.

2014 December - Hong Kong tycoon and former government official Thomas Kwok is sentenced to five years in jail in the city's biggest-ever corruption case.

2015 June - Legislative Council rejects proposals for electing the territory's next leader in 2017. Despite pro-democracy protests and a lengthy consultation process, the plans remained the same as those outlined by China in 2014.

2016 August - Hundreds of protesters rally against the disqualification of six pro-independence candidates from Legislative Council elections on 4 September.

2016 September - A new generation of pro-independence activists win seats in Legislative Council elections in the highest turnout since the 1997 handover from Britain to China.

2016 November - Thousands of people gather in central Hong Kong to show their support for China's intervention in the territory's political affairs after Beijing moves to have two pro-independence legislators removed from office.

2016 November -The high court disqualifies pro-independence legislators Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-Ching from taking their seats in the Legislative Council after they refused to pledge allegiance to China during a swearing in ceremony.

2016 December - Chief Executive CY Leung announces he will not see re-election when his current term ends in July 2017, citing family reasons.

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Image caption,
In 2017 Hong Kong marked 20 years since the city's handover from British to Chinese rule

2017 February - Former chief executive Donald Tsang is sentenced to 20 months in prison for misconduct in public office after he was accused of concealing private rental negotiations with a property tycoon for a luxury apartment in China, in return for awarding its owner a broadcasting licence.

2017 March - CY Leung's deputy Carrie Lam wins the Electoral College to become the next chief executive.

2017 June - Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Hong Kong to swear in Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and uses his visit to warn against any attempt to undermine China's influence over the special administrative region.

2017 January - Demonstrations against moves to base officials from mainland China in the territory.

2019 June-July - Hong Kong sees anti-government and pro-democracy protests, involving violent clashes with police, against a proposal to allow extradition to mainland China.