Category Archives : History

HKFP History: Happy Birthday Hong Kong – 176 years old today

It is an event that neither Hong Kong, China nor Britain are likely to be celebrating. Nevertheless, on this day – January 26 – in 1841, the British flag was first unfurled at Possession Point by Royal Navy sailors.

possession street

Photo: Chris Needos.

At the time, Hong Kong was a sleepy backwater, though it would prove to be a handy trading outpost. “Albert is so amused at my having got the island of Hong Kong”, wrote Queen Victoria in 1841.

First Opium War, via Wikicommons

First Opium War, via Wikicommons

The Convention of Chuenpee ceded Hong Kong to the British after the First Opium War in which 600 Chinese soldiers died.

HKFP History: A brief visual history of Hong Kong’s old airport, Kai Tak

Heralded as the sixth most dangerous in the world, Kai Tak served as Hong Kong’s airport from 1925 until 1998.

Photo: Daryl Chapman, via Flickr.

Photo: Daryl Chapman, via Flickr.

Landings over densely populated Kowloon were spectacular and involved a complicated last-minute manoeuvre known in the piloting community as a ‘Hong Kong turn’ or ‘checkerboard turn’, after the checkerboard reference point above Kowloon Tsai Park.

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In 1925, Kai Tak was a simple grass-strip airfield which served the British RAF and enthusiasts from the Hong Kong Aviation Club.

By 1928, a concrete slipway was constructed for seaplanes.

HKFP History: A brief visual history of the 1972 deadly Kotewall Road landslide

On June 18, 1972, a deadly landslide at Kotewall Road claimed 67 lives and injured 20. These photos, which depict the aftermath of the disaster, were taken with a Nikon F camera by a Flickr user, who was a teenager at the time living at Lyttelton Road – just one level below Kotewall Road. The negatives were recently recovered and scanned.

kotewall road landslide

First scene of the site the next morning. Photo: aetse via Flickr.

HKFP History: The evolution of the Hong Kong skyline

HongWrong presents a brief visual history of how the Hong Kong skyline has developed over the decades.

Pre-1869 painting of Hong Kong harbour

Pre-1869 painting via RGS-IBG image. Photo: E. L. Watling.

1880s – Beginning with a rare shot of the harbour from the 19th century – the same decade in which the Star Ferry became operational.

 Hong Kong harbour

 Hong Kong harbour



 Hong Kong harbour

A quaint postcard from 1906. Photo:

1910s – The CBD, gradually creeping up The Peak, was then named Victoria City.

 Hong Kong harbour


HKFP History: When 2,700 refugees were trapped off Lamma Island for four months

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnamese refugees were trickling into Hong Kong on all kinds of ships and boats to escape the war-torn country. At one point, it was estimated that 150 Vietnamese refugees arrived in Hong Kong every day from 1978 to 1981.

The response from the British government was not a welcoming one; a number of ships were purchased during that time and the number of sea and air patrols was increased. Refugees who arrived in Hong Kong were typically sent to refugee camps run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

HKFP History: A brief history of South China tigers in Hong Kong

In the days when Hong Kong was filled with swathes of dense forest instead of skyscrapers, the city was home to many species that would be foreign and exotic to residents today. Perhaps none have been more captivating, elusive, and deadly than the South China tiger.


A South China Tiger. Photo: Wikicommons.

The most distinctive of all tiger subspecies, the South China tiger once boasted a reported population of 4,000 in the wild, spanning from Hunan and Jiangxi in the north to Hong Kong. In the early days of the territory as a British colony, tigers were not a common sight. But certainly the local tiger was as dangerous as it was unique.

HKFP History: The British luxury liner at the bottom of Victoria Harbour

Buried at the bottom of Victoria Harbour remains the keel, hull and boilers from the QEII predecessor, the RMS Queen Elizabeth. It was purchased at auction in 1970 by local tycoon C.Y. Tung, who wanted to make the vessel into a university for the World Campus Afloat programme, the predecessor to Semester at Sea. Tung renamed the ship Seawise University, a play on his initials.

However, the vessel sank two years later, on January 9, 1972, following a fire.

seawise uni wreckage

1972: The wreck of Seawise University, the former Queen Elizabeth. Photo: Wikicommons.

HKFP History: The long-lost ‘haunted’ castles of Hong Kong

Eu Tong Sen was a well-known tycoon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with business interests across Southeast Asia. He was also vice-president of the Anti-Opium Society and a somewhat eccentric property owner. Heir to his family’s retail and mining businesses, he took control of his father’s estate in 1898. Over the decades that followed, he multiplied his fortune several times over. By age 30, he was one of the region’s richest men, specialising in the tin mining and rubber industries.

castle hong kong

Photo: Aetse via Flickr.

HKFP History: A Brief Visual History of the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower

Built with red bricks and granite, the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower peaks at 44 metres and once dominated Victoria Harbour. It is now all that remains of the old Kowloon station on the waterfront.

Below is Victoria Terminus exactly 101 years ago, a few years after the line itself opened in 1910.

TST Clock Tower

Rickshaws await new arrivals – 1914. Photo: via Flickr.

The plan for the terminus was finalised in 1904, but World War I delayed construction.

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1910s. Photo: via

HKFP History: Hong Kong’s most tumultuous year – the 1967 riots

Hong Kong’s leftist riots were sparked in May 1967 by a labour dispute at an artificial flower factory. The large-scale, pro-communist protests were staged in sympathy with the mainland Cultural Revolution and against British rule.

Throughout the year, there were violent demonstrations, massive strikes, murders and even terrorist attacks on Hong Kong soil.

riots hong kong

“Our nation’s millions of Red Guards resolutely support the patriotic compatriots of Hong Kong and Kowloon in their anti-English struggle against violent repression!” Photo:

Many demonstrators wielded Mao’s Little Red Book as large loudspeakers were set up atop the Bank of China building broadcasting leftist propaganda.