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  • 4,000-1,500 B.C. Early settlers of Asian Mongoloid stock spread throughout south China, including Hong Kong, leaving behind Neolithic artifacts ranging from pottery and stone tools to burial grounds.
  • 221 B.C. Hong Kong becomes part of the Chinese empire with unification of China by the first emperor of Qin.
  • 960-1500s Pirates roam the seas around Hong Kong; Han Chinese settle in what is now the New Territories.
  • 1514 Portuguese traders establish a base in southern China.
  • 1839 The Chinese emperor attempts to abolish the opium trade and destroys the British opium stockpile; the Royal Navy retaliates by firing on Chinese war junks, starting the first Opium War.
  • 1841 British naval Capt. Charles Elliot lands at Possession Point on Hong Kong Island, raises the British flag, and declares himself governor.
  • 1842 The first Opium War ends in the Treaty of Nanking, ceding Hong Kong Island to Britain in perpetuity.
  • 1846 Hong Kong's population is 24,000. First horse races held at Happy Valley.
  • 1856 Chinese officials searching for pirates arrest the crew of a British ship, prompting the second Opium War, which ends in 1858.
  • 1860 Victorious in the second Opium War and seeking a foothold on the mainland, Britain forces China to cede Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island to the British in perpetuity in the First Convention of Peking. Population reaches 94,000.
  • 1888 The Victoria Peak Tram is completed, reducing the journey to the Peak from 3 hours to 8 minutes.
  • 1898 With the signing of the Second Convention of Peking, the New Territories are leased to Britain for 99 years, for which Britain pays nothing.
  • 1900 Hong Kong's population is 263,000.
  • 1904 The street tramway system is constructed along the waterfront on Hong Kong Island.
  • 1911 The Manchu dynasty is overthrown by Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist revolution; refugees flood into Hong Kong.
  • 1938 Japan seizes Canton; Hong Kong becomes an arms-smuggling route for the Nationalist forces, now under Chiang Kai-shek; 500,000 Chinese refugees flee into Hong Kong.
  • 1941 Japanese forces occupy Hong Kong and begin deporting residents to the mainland to ease food and housing shortages.
  • 1945 The British resume control of Hong Kong following World War II. Hong Kong's prewar population of 1.6 million now stands at 600,000.
  • 1949 Mao declares the founding of the People's Republic; a subsequent flood of refugees to Hong Kong causes the Communist government to seal the Chinese-Hong Kong border.
  • 1950 Mass influx of refugees continues following the fall of Shanghai to the Communists. Population of Hong Kong reaches two million.
  • 1953 Following a huge fire in a squatter camp, Hong Kong begins an ambitious public housing program to house its still-growing population of refugees.
  • 1966 A fare increase on the Star Ferry prompts clashes between Chinese and the police.
  • 1967 The Cultural Revolution in China leads to pro-Communist riots in Hong Kong; 51 people are killed, and hundreds more are wounded or arrested in the fighting.
  • 1972 First cross-harbor tunnel opens.
  • 1979 Establishment of Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway subway system. Hong Kong governor Sir Murray MacLehose goes to Beijing for the first Sino-British discussions on the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule.
  • 1981 British Parliament downgrades Hong Kong passports to prevent an exodus of Hong Kong Chinese to the United Kingdom.
  • 1984 China and Britain sign the Joint Declaration for the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.
  • 1989 Events at Tiananmen Square in Beijing send shock waves through Hong Kong. Some 80,000 demonstrators brave a typhoon in support of the pro-democracy uprising.
  • 1997 Britain transfers Hong Kong to Communist China, ending 156 years of British rule. Hong Kong's first outbreak of avian flu at the end of the year, killing six people, prompts the new government to order the slaughter of 1.3 million chickens.
  • 2003 An outbreak in Hong Kong of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spreads around the globe, infecting more than 8,000 people and delivering a shocking blow to Hong Kong's economy.
  • 2007 Hong Kong becomes mostly smoke-free, including its restaurants; bars and nightclubs join the smoking ban in 2009. China announces it will allow Hong Kong to directly elect its chief executive in 2017 and all its Legislative Council (LegCo) members in 2020.
  • 2010 LegCo, in a compromise between Beijing and pan-democrats pushing for universal suffrage for the 2012 elections, votes to increase LegCo membership from 60 to 70 and to expand the election committee for the chief executive from 800 to 1,200. Legislators also pass Hong Kong's first-ever minimum wage law.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.