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Updated: February 2009. Click on an image to see the FULL size with a caption.
Hong Kong is a vibrant, dynamic city that was once a "barren rock" housing a collection of fishing villages when claimed by Britain in 1842 following the First Opium War with China. Hong Kong island was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking. The Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island were handed over in 1860 and a 99-year lease was granted on the New Territories, comprising the area north of Kowloon up to the Shenzhen River and 235 outlying islands, in 1898. Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty on July 1 1997, and is now a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China operating under the "one country, two systems" principle.
Today, Hong Kong is a flourishing international centre with a population of about seven million people. With a land area of more than 1,100 sq km and over 260 outlying islands, Hong Kong is compact and accessible. It consists of Hong Kong Island, separated from the Kowloon Peninsula by Victoria Harbour, and the New Territories that begin north of Kowloon and extend to the Mainland China boundary.
The Central District, the birthplace of modern Hong Kong, used to be called "Victoria" after Queen Victoria. It boasted elegant colonial-style buildings with sweeping verandas and narrow streets filled with pigtailed men pulling rickshaws. That's hard to imagine nowadays. With Central's gleaming glass-and-steel skyscrapers, there's little left of its colonial beginnings.