The island city of Hong Kong (HK) is one of the most densely populated areas and costliest economies in the world. The sensory overload can be overwhelming for newly arrived Hong Kong expats. The island has a significant community of expatriates from the United Kingdom. The background behind this is deliciously sordid and goes as far back as the 19th Century Opium Wars and beyond.
During the reign of Queen Victoria, the Brits had quite a fancy for Chinese tea. Unfortunately, neither the Qing Dynasty nor its subjects were interested in trading. Quite reasonably, the British government did not want to deplete its reserves of gold and silver for such a consumable commodity, so they arranged for massive quantities of opium from India to be dumped onto the Chinese market. The plan was to exchange the opium for tea. Unsurprisingly, the local government objected, thus triggering the First Opium War via which China were ultimately forced to cede HK, which became a Crown Colony of the British Empire.
A lease agreement transferring 200 islands surrounding HK to Great Britain for a 99-year period was signed in 1898. In 1984, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed to surrender Hong Kong to China when the lease expired. This took place in 1997 and explains why HK is once again under the rule of the Chinese.
For at least its first fifty years back under Chinese control, HK is allowed to practice capitalism and enjoy certain political freedoms not shared by the mainland residents. Like Macau, HK is currently one of two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) in China. It is still a global financial center.
Owing to its economic status, the island has a substantial expatriate community. Among these are a number of ex football players. Paul Ritchie, from Scotland, Robert Hopkins, formerly of Aston Villa, and Paul Nixon of Bristol Rovers all make their home here.
High on the list of attractions for expatriate citizens is the city’s record for safety. One of the world’s safest cities, violent crime is rare. There is a huge presence of security guards and it is safe for anyone to walk around any time, day or night.
Other fascinating characteristics unique to HK and enjoyed by Hong Kong expats are concrete football pitches, spectacular views, its pedestrian-friendliness, congee, fireworks, octopus cards, Victoria Park Flower Market, full mobile phone reception and late night shopping.