In the late 19th century, powers including Britain competed for spheres of influence in China by grabbing large swathes of Chinese soil. In March 1898, Britain demanded an extension of the boundary of Hong Kong, using the excuse that the Qing government had leased Guangzhouwan (or Guangzhou Bay, 廣州灣, now known as Zhanjiang﹝湛江﹞) to France. On 9 June 1898, China and Britain signed the Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory in Beijing (北京). The Convention was effective from 1 July and lasted for 99 years, with the lease set to expire on 30 June 1997. By signing this Convention, China was forced to lease Britain the territory south of the shortest distance between Starling Inlet (沙頭角海) and Shenzhen Bay (深圳灣, or Deep Bay﹝深灣﹞), including the expanse of territory north of present-day Boundary Street, the 253 outlying islands nearby and the waters of Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) and Shenzhen Bay. The territory has been known as the “New Territories” since then.
One may notice that the actual boundary is different from that described above. This is because China and Britain signed the Delimitation of Northern Frontier of New Territories subsequently on 19 March 1899. The land boundary of the northern New Territories in this document was different from that stated in the Convention as the territory under British control was expanded. Even British Commissioner James Haldane Stewart Lockhart admitted that the document allowed Britain to have full control over the river (Shenzhen River) which had not been included in the original map adhered to the Convention.
A cartoon illustrating the powers carving up the Chinese territory by the late 19th century.
The then Hong Kong Governor William Robinson. On 9 November 1894, Robinson proposed to the Colonial Office that the boundary of Hong Kong should be extended to the line of Mirs Bay and Shenzhen Bay for defence reasons. He gave a frank statement that Britain should push forward this demand before China recovered from losing the First Sino-Japanese War.
Negotiations of leasing the New Territories to Britain took place in the Office for the General Management of Affairs Concerning the Various Countries, the Qing diplomatic agency.
Li Hongzhang (李鴻章), the Qing representative in the negotiations. (Photo source: Fotoe)
The replica of the Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory.
The map adhered to the Convention.
On 11 March 1899, negotiations concerning the land boundary of the northern New Territories being held in Hong Kong.
In March 1899, the Chinese Commissioner Wang Cunshan (王存善, front first left, with head lowered) and the British Commissioner Stewart Lockhart (hand holding the boundary mark) for boundary settlement fixing the first boundary marker on the shore of Starling Inlet.
Representatives of China and Britain surveying the boundary at the upper reaches of the Shenzhen River.
On 16 April 1899, a flag-raising ceremony being held in Tai Po when the British took over the New Territories.
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