Hong Kong’s origins as a humble fishing village belied its later strategic importance in the wars between Asia and the West. The British wrested control of the island from China after the first Opium War, and the resulting occupation modernised the island’s economy and culture in many ways. Electricity replaced gas in 1910, and the Hong Kong Electrical Company worked flawlessly for two decades. Gasoline-powered buses appeared instead of rickshaws, along with trams and ferries, and by 1927 a regular air service. The prosperity paused during WW II when the Japanese invaded the island.
On this day, August 30, in 1945, after a period the natives simply called “3 years 8 months”, the British took the island once more.
Hong Kong recaptured had only half of its former population of 1.5 million. War deprivation and immigration took their toll. But the British expanded a lot of effort into growing the region back, replacing squatter camps with large multistory buildings and encouraging a Western-style economic system that turned the island into a financial center of Asia. But Hong Kong would not be British forever: the 99-year lease Britain obtained at the end of the Opium Wars expired in 1997, and Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule.