Updated (partial) on March 4, 2013
A timeline of first of its kind events in Hong Kong -- not to be mistaken as a general timeline of historical events. Selected world and regional events (highlighted in dark-goldenrod color) are added as references in context. This list by is by no means exhaustive, in fact far from it. New entries will be added; when? Well, you'll know when you see them.
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HONG KONG'S FIRST...
The first human beings arrive and settle in Hong Kong
1278￭ Imperial sojourners - Zhao Shi and his brother Zhao Bing
Zhao Shi 趙昰 and his younger brother Zhao Bing 趙昺, the 17th and 18th (last) emperors of Song Dynasty 宋朝 seek refuge in Hong Kong from the Mongolian invaders. Sadly, the 11-year-old Zhao Shi never leaves, he dies on May 8, 1278 in Gangzhou 碙州 (present day Lantau 大嶼山) having suffered from near-drowning when fell off a boat a few months earlier. Zhao Bing is crowned emperor two days later in Meiyu 梅蔚 (present day Mui Wo 梅窩). On March 19, 1279 prime minister Lu Xiu-fu 陸秀夫, on hearing news that Song has collapsed completely, carries the 8-year-old boy king on his back and jumps off a cliff at Mount Ya 崖山 in Guangdong. [A part of a rock on which the brothers were said to have rested is displayed at the Sung Wong Toi Garden 宋王台花園 in Ma Tau Wai.]
1644￭ Qing Dynasty establishes
Daicing gurun overruns Ming Dynasty and begins its reign in China, naming their empire Da Qing, or simply Qing
1700s￭ Religious building [oldest surviving] - the Temple of Water Immortal
Built in the 1700s at Stanley, the Temple of Water Immortal 水僊古廟 is the oldest surviving religious building structure on Hong Kong Island.
1800s￭ Pawn shop [oldest surviving] - the Po Yuen Pawn Shop
The Po Yuen Pawn Shop in Yuen Long opens for business in the 1800s. [It is no longer in business today.]
1839￭ The First Opium War begins
1840s￭ Chinese Dentistry practitioner - Kwan Yuen-cheong
Kwan Yuen-cheong is the first Chinese dentistry practitioner in Hong Kong. He apprenticed under an American dentist named Collins in Canton
1841￭ Britain takes Hong Kong by Force
Representatives of the Qing and the British governments, as an attempt to end the First Opium War, sign the the Convention of Chuenpee 穿鼻草約. Qing is forced, among other concessions, to cede Hong Kong to Britain. While the convention is pending for ratifications, British authority in China acts unilateral and orders its armed forces to land at Possession Point 水坑口, taking Hong Kong by force. [The Convention of Chuenpee was never ratified by the signatory nations]
The first Hong Kong census returns a (land based) population of 3,650; an additional 2,000 persons are reported to live on boats. [The June 1, 1841 issue of the Friend of China published slightly different census results that listed the settlements on the island with their respective populations: "Chek Chu 2,000; Shaukeiwan 1,200; Wong Nai Chung 400; Heung Kong 200, etc., totally some 4,200 people plus 2,000 boat people and 800 shopkeeps in the bazaar."]
William Caine is appointed Hong Kong's first Chief Magistrate
Commander Edward Belcher of HMS Sulphur is appointed Hong Kong's first Harbor Master in the latter half of 1841.
The Naval and Military Hospital is the first hospital in Hong Kong; it closes forever after its meshed structure is destroyed by typhoon on July 22, 1841
34 lots of land are sold though bidding processes. The sale brings in GBP3,238 per year in quit rents. The successful bidders are: D. & M. Rustomjee & Co., Dent & Co., Dirom & Co., Fox, MacVicar & Turner, Gemmell & Co., Gribble Hughes & Co., R. Gully, Captain [ ] Hart, Heerjeebhoy Rustomjee, Holliday Wise & Co., Hooker & Lane, Jardine, Matheson & Co., Jamieson & How, Framjee Jamsetjee, T. Larkins, Lindsay & Co., H. Leighton, MacVicar & Co., Captain [ ] Morgan, John Smith (seriously...), Turner & Co., and R. Webster. The land sale is arranged by Alexander Robert Johnston 莊士敦, Deputy Superintendent of Trade [He was appointed Administrator of Hong Kong from June 22 through the end of 1941 and again in the second half of 1842.]. Notwithstanding Britain's physical possession of Hong Kong, it has no sovereign rights over the island because the Convention of Chuenpee, which allows the ceding of Hong Kong, has not been ratified by the signatory nations. The Johnston land sale is, therefore, illegitimate.
The Hong Kong Gazette 香港公報 is Hong Kong's first newspaper and is founded by John Robert Morrison 馬儒翰, son of Scottish missionary Robert Morrison 馬禮遜. The newspaper is the official mouthpiece of its bankroller, the office of the British Superintendent of Trade in China, for which the two Morrisons work as translators. It is published in Macau (as there is no printing press in Hong Kong) for circulation in Hong Kong. [It was discontinued on March 24, 1842; henceforth government notices were posted in the Friend of China.]
Hong Kong’s first post office opens three months after the Postal Department was established in August 1841. [It occupied the land where the Central Government Offices 中區政府合署 stand today. It continued to provide postal services until replaced in 1846 by a new post office located on Queen’s Road Central near Pedder Street.]
Hong Kong's provisional Police Force is established; headed by Chief Magistrate William Caine, the force is composed of 35 infantry soldiers seconded from the British army
Commander Edward Belcher of the British Royal Navy conducts the first survey of the Hong Kong harbor aboard HMS Sulphur days after British landing details, which he was a part of, took Hong Kong by force.
1842￭ The First Opium War ends, Hong Kong is formally ceded to Britain
The Treaty of Nanking between Qing and Britain ends the First Opium War. Hong Kong formally ceded to Britain
F. Langer is the first architect to work in Hong Kong. He is hired by Jardine, Matheson to build warehouses but dies 2 months after arriving Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's first autopsy is performed by Dr. [ ] Lunn, the government pathologist, who is most likely a Royal Navy surgeon. The subject is Nga Lok-po, a Chinese woman who died suddenly causing her families to suspect she has been poisoned. The inquest identifies cause of death as a “visitation of God”.
The Queen's Road Chapel is formally dedicated. The service of the first Protestant (Baptist) church in Hong Kong is conducted by the Revs. Jehu Lewis Shuck 淑士人, [ ] Dan, and Elijah Coleman Bridgman 裨治文. They are all Americans.
The first ferry service to run across the Hong Kong Harbor, between Tsimshatsui and Central, is provided by Bohra Muslim trading house Abdoolally Ebrahim & Co 鴨都喇利.
Chief Magistrate William Caine 威廉堅, acting as head of Hong Kong's provisional Police Force, orders the city's first curfew under the pretext of fighting crime at night. The curfew regulates only the Chinese inhabitants, denying them the freedom to walk the street after 11pm. [A later revision required further that all Chinese were to carry a lantern between 8 to 10pm, and additionally, a pass issued by an European between 10 and 11pm. Except for brief periods between 1847 and 1850, the curfew continued uninterrupted until June 21, 1897, when it was finally lifted in totality in consideration of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee celebrations. The 55-years curfew set the record as the longest imposed during peacetime anywhere in the world.]
Henry Pottinger, Administrator of Hong Kong, summarily disbands the entire provisional police force due to its uselessness, and replaces it with soldiers.
A fresh-fish market is built by the order of Henry Pottinger, Administrator of Hong Kong.
The following currencies are proclaimed by the occupation government as the legal tender of Hong Kong: Spanish, Mexican and other dollars, their component parts, Company Rupees and their component parts and Chinese copper cash. All dollars are valued at par. The following exchange rates are fixed: 2.25 Company Rupees to 1 dollar, 533 cash to 1 Company Rupee, 1,200 cash to 1 dollar. [Company Rupees were coinages issued by the British East India Company.]
This is the first recorded murder case in Hong Kong. The case reveals that Ah Nam visited Ho Wai this morning, the two were decorators working out of Canton Bazaar. Ah Nam demanded arrears of wages Ho Wai owed him, which was refused. An argument ensued, the two went into an empty house to have the matter sorted out, except that the 40-yeas-old Ho Wai came out bleeding copiously from the neck and said before he died that he has been struck by Ah Nam. Dr [ ] Lunn (government pathologist ) identified the wound as the cause of death and opined it was done with a knife or chopper. The jury reached a verdict of “willful murder”. [By the time the verdict was reached, Ah Nam was long gone and no arrested were ever made.]
Wine, timber for ship- and house-building are the products promoted in Hong Kong's first newspaper advertisements posted in the Friend of China.
Henry Pottinger announces the officers charged with the first government of Hong Kong: Pottinger - Plenipotentiary, Minister Extraordinary , Alexander Robert Johnstone - deputy Superintendent of British Trade, John Robert Morrison - acting Secretary and Treasurer, Charles Edward Stewart - asst Secretary and Treasurer, Alexander Anderson – Surgeon, Henry Holgate - acting Surgeon, William Caine – Magistrate, Samuel Fearon - Coroner, clerk of the court and interpreter, George F. Mylius - Land Officer and Surveyor, William Pedder - Marine magistrate and Harbor Master, Alexander Lena - asst Marine magistrate and Harbor Master, [ ] Mullaly – Postmaster. Since Hong Kong has as yet to become a British colony, the nature of this government could only be considered as the British occupation government.
ca.1842￭ Assistant (Government) Surgeon - Charles Alexander Winchester
Winchester, assistant surgeon of HMS Cornwallis, arrives China in 1842, just in time to witness the signing of the Treaty of Nanking. He is appointed Hong Kong's first government assistant surgeon some time before the establishment of the provisional government. [Winchester later became a diplomat and was stationed in China and Japan. His last position ,before retiring in 1871, was British Consul General in Shanghai.]
1843￭ Hong Kong is officially established as a British colony
British Royal Charter, titled "Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong" is issued, officially constitutes Hong Kong as a colony of the British Crown.
The ferry service is provided by P. Townsend & Co., which also engages itself as an auctioneer. Two boats are in use: Witch, which sails from the Harbor Master's jetty at 10am on Tuesdays and Fridays; and Rory o'More, which leaves Stanley to return at 4pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Passage each way costs 4 Rupees.
Henry Pottinger 砵甸乍, Administrator of Hong Kong since 1841, is appointed the first colonial governor of Hong Kong. [He held the office until May 8, 1844. After departing Hong Kong, he went on to became the governor of Cape Colony, and later governor of Madras.
44 government officials, military officers and merchants, all Britons, are appointed Justices of the Peace. The 16 Official JPs are: Alexander R. Johnstone, William Caine, Charles Batten Hillier, Alexander Anderson, George Balfour, Alexander Thomas Gordon, William Grey, Henry Gribble, George Tradescant Lay, George Alexander Malcolm, John Ambrose Mercer, John Robert Morrison, William Pedder, Alexander Scott, Charles Edward Stewart, Robert Thom, Richard Woosnam. The Unofficial JPs are: George Thomas Braine, David Laing Burn, Charles Spencer Compton, John Dent, Francis Charles Drummond, Patrick Dudgeon, Henry Dundas, Joseph Frost Edger, Angus Fletcher, John Darby Gibb, Henry Robert Harker, John Holliday, Andrew Jardine, Crawford Kerr, William Cairnes LeGeyt, William Potter Livingston, Thomas William Lockwood Mackean, Alexander Matheson, William Morgan, John Rickett, Joseph Mackrill Smith, Patrick Stewart, William Stewart, James White, Alfred Wilkinson, John Wise, Peter Young. Out of the 28 Unofficial JPs, 17 are opium dealers.
The Legislative Council is established under the “Charter of the Colony of Hong Kong”. The Governor, in consultation with the Legislative Council, which is nothing more than an advisory body, is empowered to make and enact laws in Hong Kong.
Lieutenant Thomas Bernard Collinson 哥連臣 of the British Royal Engineers produces the first map of Hong Kong, which is an ordnance map commissioned by the British Army.
The Canton Bazaar 廣州市場 is built on one of the land lots sold by A.R. Johnston on June 14, 1841 to an English company [situated at present day Queen's Road Central between Cochrane Street 閣麟街 and Graham Street 嘉咸街]. When the buyer could not produce evidence of ownership, the lot reverted to the government and was subsequently resold to Lieutenant-Colonel George Alexander Malcolm (b.1810-d.1888), who then have the bazaar built on this land. [Malcolm was famous as the courier who brought the Treaty of Nanking from China to London, and after its ratification by Queen Victoria, carried the Qing instrument back to China. He was, at the time, a Major with the Guards and served as Henry Pottinger's secretary in the official position of “Secretary of Legation” of the British Trade Mission. Malcolm, son of General John Malcolm who was the Governor of Bombay (1826-1830), was himself promoted to the rank of Major-General in 1868. His wife, Georgiana Harcourt (b.1807-d.1886) was a noted correspondent and translator of literary works.] [The Canton Bazaar, also known as the Middle Bazaar and the Malcolm's Bazaar, would later evolve into the Central Market 中環街市, which occupies the land directly opposite where the Canton Bazaar was, across the Queen's Road.]
Alexander Robert Johnston, former Administrator of Hong Kong; John Robert Morrison, Chinese Secretary for the Hong Kong Government, and Interpreter to the Superintendent of Trade; and William Caine, Chief Magistrate are appointed official members of the Legislative Council today. [Unofficial members were not appointed until 1850.]
Sharks are sighted in the Victoria Harbor. Sea bathers are said to be warned [not certain by what means].