19th Century

In British Hong Kong, there was a strong intolerance for secret societies. While being unaware of their previous issues the British considered the Tiandihui a criminal threat. The Tiandihui were charged and imprisoned in Hong Kong which was under British law at that time. During the 1800s, many such societies were seen as legitimate ways of helping new immigrants from China settle into a new country. Secret societies were officially banned by the British government in Singapore during the 1890s and slowly stamped out by successive colonial governors and leaders over time.[5] The opium trade, prostitution and brothels were also banned. Immigrants were encouraged to seek help from a local kongsi instead of turning to secret societies, which also contributed to their decline. After World War II, these societies saw a resurgence as gangsters took advantage of the uncertainty and growing anti-British sentiment. Certain Chinese communities, such as some "new villages" of Kuala Lumpur and Bukit Ho Swee in Singapore became notorious for gang violence. British Hong Kong (Chinese: ) refers to Hong Kong as a British Crown colony and, later, a British Dependent Territory under British administration from 1841 to 1997. In 1836, the Chinese government undertook a major policy review of the opium trade. Lin Zexu volunteered to take on the task of suppressing opium. In March 1839, he became Special Imperial Commissioner in Canton, where he ordered the foreign traders to surrender their opium stock. He confined the British to the Canton Factories and cut off their supplies. Chief Superintendent of Trade, Charles Elliot, complied with Lin's demands in order to secure a safe exit for the British, with the costs involved to be resolved between the two governments. When Elliot promised that the British government would pay for their opium stock, the merchants surrendered their 20,283 chests of opium, which were destroyed in public.[1] In September 1839, the British Cabinet decided that the Chi ese should be made to pay for the destruction of British property by the threat or use of force. An expeditionary force was placed under Elliot and his cousin, Rear Admiral George Elliot, as joint plenipotentiaries in 1840. Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston stressed to the Chinese Imperial Government that the British Government did not question China's right to prohibit opium, but it objected to the way this was handled.[1] He viewed the sudden strict enforcement as laying a trap for the foreign traders, and the confinement of the British with supplies cut off was tantamount to starving them into submission or death. He instructed the Elliot cousins to occupy one of the Chusan islands, to present a letter from himself to a Chinese official for the Emperor, then to proceed to the Gulf of Bohai for a treaty, and if the Chinese resisted, blockade the key ports of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers.[2] Palmerston demanded a territorial base in Chusan for trade so that British merchants "may not be subject to the arbitrary caprice either of the Government of Peking, or its local Authorities at the Sea-Ports of the Empire".[3] British Hong Kong in the 1930s In 1841, Elliot negotiated with Lin's successor, Qishan, in the Convention of Chuenpee during the First Opium War. On 20 January, Elliot announced "the conclusion of preliminary arrangements", which included the cession of Hong Kong Island and its harbour to the British Crown.[4] On 26 January, the Union Flag was raised on Hong Kong, and Commodore James Bremer, commander-in-chief of the British forces in China, took formal possession of the island at Possession Point.[5] Elliot chose Hong Kong instead of Chusan because he believed a settlement further east would cause an "indefinite protraction of hostilities", whereas Hong Kong's harbour was a valuable base for the British trading community in Canton.[6] On 29 August 1842, the cession was formally ratified in the Treaty of Nanking, which ceded Hong Kong "in perpetuity" to Britain.

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Updated in February 2013