Hong Kong SAR 15 years on: Is it still Special?

Story highlights

Hong Kong marks 15 years since the handover from British to Chinese rule

The island became a British colony after the first Opium War in 1842

Britain and China agreed that Hong Kong should remain independent for 50 years

Hong Kong has its own borders, laws, currency and freedom of expression

Hong Kong CNN  — 

In 1842, when Hong Kong became a British crown colony after the first Opium War, it was described by a very unimpressed UK Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, as a barren rock with nary a house on it.

He also added, prophetically and spectacularly incorrectly, “it will never be a mart for trade.”

Of course, by 1997, when Hong Kong was handed back by the British to become a Special Administrative Region (S.A.R) of China, it was a modern metropolis of well over six million souls, used to a free economy, a free press and the rule of law.

According to the agreement hammered out between Britain and China, the territory would remain that way for at least 50 years.

Under Chinese rule, Hong Kong would govern itself, choose its own leaders, control its own economy and maintain its own legal system. But there were many skeptics. Would China really be able to keep its hands off?

Fifteen years later, almost a third of the way through those 50 years, are those promises still being kept? How has the territory changed?