This week, our Travel pics series is E for East Asia.
For Tuesday, it’s Hong Kong – a ‘Special Administrative Region’ of China.
Fragrant Harbour, which is the literal Chinese name for this enclave, is a small island and a nearby mainland area excised from China in a bitter war with Britain in 1842.
The war was not one of Britain’s high-moral-ground points … it was fought by the British to force China into allowing drug traffickers to sell opium to its people.
You see, there was a trade imbalance – Britain wanted Chinese silks, and porcelain, and tea … but it didn’t produce anything the Chinese wanted in return.
Until Britain got the morally indefensible idea of selling opium from its Indian holdings to Chinese middlemen.
The Qing empire, quite reasonably, thought this was a bad idea but Britain used its military superiority to force China to accept the drug trade – and occupied first the island of Hong Kong, and then the mainland area of Kowloon, to set up a financial and military base, and keep the Chinese in check.
In 1898, a 99 year lease was signed giving Britain continued domination over Hong Kong – and for nearly 100 years, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ was a little slice of Britain in Asia.
The 99 year lease expired in 1997, and Britain handed Hong Kong back to China – which named it a ‘special administrative region’ .. ostensibly allowing it self government, but under the aegis of Beijing.
Since then, the control of the Communist Party has continued to tighten, but HK still enjoys much more freedom than most parts of the People’s Republic.
Today’s picture comes from Victoria Peak, and is of what are called the mid-levels … affluent apartment buildings that stretch from Central Hong Kong to halfway up Mount Austin (also known as The Peak).
There are giant escalators that allow residents to walk into the centre of Hong Kong, and return to their homes, while remaining close to parks and nature – and with a much better air-quality than most of Hong Kong.