with buzzing EconomieHong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s was the most vibrant city in Asia, if not the world. When China took over the former British territory in 1997, it vowed to allow for the happy times by granting it semi-autonomous city status for 50 years. Its “one country, two systems” plan would allow Hong Kong to retain capitalism and personal freedoms not available to the Chinese.
Unable to prevent itself from capturing Asia’s Most Brilliant award, China quickly began navigating the bargain with additional regulatory moves. In 2020, he passed a “national security” law giving the government new powers to punish critics, silence dissidents and change the lives of Hong Kong residents forever.
A massive number of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents choked the city’s streets in mass protests that resulted in bloody clashes with police but failed to thwart the ambitions of bent rulers in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The famous skyline still stands, but beneath the towers of commerce and culture, a city that was once considered a shining temple of capitalism and freedom in Asia is becoming less well known by the day.
Today the world bows to the economic power of China, but three decades ago, Hong Kong was one of the “Little Dragons of Asia”.
In 1991, it was the 11th largest in terms of trade power in the world, with more total exports than either China or India. After adjusting for purchasing power, its per capita income exceeded that of Japan and Great Britain.
It was also a cultural weight. Riding the kung fu craze initiated by favorite son Bruce Lee, Hong Kong cinema has risen to its peak. Actors like Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat and directors like John Woo revitalize global audiences through action classics like boiled (1992) and Drunken master II (1993), who taught combat choreography with films such as the matrix.