This Day in History (19-Dec-1984) – UK signs agreement with China to return Hong Kong to China in 1997

In the two ‘opium wars’ faught between China and Britain between 1839 to 1860, Britain ceded the part of Hong Kong island in perpetuity. Further China was weakened due to defeat in Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95. In 1898, China signed the lease contract to give British full jurisdiction of remaining Hong Kong that was necessary to ensure proper military defence of the colony around the island. The lease agreement was for 99 years expiring on 30 Jun 1997, with zero rent. Claude MacDonald, the British representative during the convention, picked a 99-year lease because he thought it was “as good as forever.”  Part ceded and part leased, made it unfeasible to return the leased land alone as it would have split Hong Kong in two parts. The Chinese also started to pressure the British to return all of Hong Kong, taking the position that they would not accept so-called “unequal treaties” that were imposed on them by colonial powers.

Hong Kong propspered in 20th century. However facing the uncertain future of Hong Kong, Governor MacLehose raised the question in the late 1970s about lease agreement. The expiry of lease in 1997 created problems for business contracts, property leases and confidence among foreign investors. In 1983, the United Kingdom reclassifed Hong Kong as a British Dependent Territory (now British Overseas Territory) when reorganising global territories of the British Empire. Talks and negotiations began with China and concluded with the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The declaration stated that Hong Kong’s sovereignty will be transfered to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997, when Hong Kong would remain autonomous as a Special Administrative Region and be able to retain its free-market economy, British common law through the Basic Law, independent representation in international organisations (e.g. WTO and WHO), treaty arrangements and policy-making except foreign diplomacy and military defence.  It stipulated that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer.

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/december/19?p=2

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/430163/Opium-Wars

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_for_the_Extension_of_Hong_Kong_Territory

This Day in History (23-Sep-1846) – Astronomers Discover Neptune

After first being sighted in the night sky by Galileo in 1612, it took well over two centuries for scientists to determine the bright object near Jupiter in the famous Italian’s notes was not a star.  Urbain Le Verrier and Johann Gottfried Galle, working together on the European continent, and John Couch Adams, making calculations independently in England, learned the heavenly body was actually the planet Neptune on September 23, 1846.

Alexis Bouvard, attempting to determine the orbits of the planets in 1821, realized the planet Uranus seemed to be swayed and theorized another large object nearby might be affecting it. Two decades later, Adams focused his energies on the same issue.  Unsatisfied with the limited data he had managed to gather, he made an inquiry with the Astronomer Royal, George Airy, in search of more information to help him with his search for a new planet.  Upon receiving a large number of observations in February 1844, he spent two-and-a-half years attempting to determine where this unknown celestial body might be.

At the same time, Le Verrier focused his attention on determining what Bouvard had found.  Unable to muster much in the way of interest, he published a series of estimates in June 1846.  Le Verrier, struggling to find scientists in his own country willing to pay attention and collaborate, wrote a letter to Galle at the Berlin Observatory detailing his findings.  Arriving on the morning of September 23, 1846, Le Verrier’s note proved to be the final catalyst to the discovery of Neptune.  After nightfall, Galle located the planet just one degree away from where Le Verrier had predicted it would be and 12 degrees away from Adams’ calculated location.  The eighth planet in Earth’s solar system had been officially discovered. After the discovery, there was rivalry between England and France about who should get credit for finding Neptune, Adams or Le Verrier. The international astronomy community agreed that the two astronomers should share credit for the discovery.

Late in 1846, the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences pushed Le Verrier’s first suggestion for name — Neptune — to the fore.  Honoring the Roman god of the sea, it remains the farthest planet from the sun.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/september-23-1846-ce-astronomers-discover-neptune

http://www.universetoday.com/21621/who-discovered-neptune/