The British forces landed on Hong Kong Island on 25 January 1841 and held a flag-raising ceremony the next day, marking the establishment of Hong Kong as a free port. Defeated in the First Opium War, the Qing government signed the Treaty of Nanking (or Treaty of Nanjing,《南京條約》) with Britain in 1842. It officially commenced the British rule in Hong Kong. The Queen of Britain promulgated the Hong Kong Letters Patent and the Hong Kong Royal Instructions. As the constitutional documents of ruling Hong Kong, they stipulated the power of the Hong Kong Governor, the establishment of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council, etc.
The Hong Kong Governor, who was appointed by the British Crown, had to swear allegiance to the British Crown when he took up office. Soon after the first Hong Kong Governor Sir Henry Pottinger assumed office, he established the Hong Kong government, the Executive Council, and the Legislative Council in accordance with the Hong Kong Letters Patent. The Executive Council was the highest consultative body in Hong Kong while the Legislative Council was the law-making body. Both Councils were presided over by the Governor and their members were appointed by him. He held significant power as the two Councils only served as consultants in policy-making. Regarding the judiciary, the Supreme Court of Hong Kong was established in 1844. The judicial independence and the rule of law have been practising in Hong Kong since then.
The portrait of Queen Victoria (reigned between 1837 and 1901) and her bronze sculpture in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. Hong Kong was under the British rule during the Victorian era when Britain was at its peak.
The Hong Kong Royal Instructions and the Hong Kong Letters Patent printed in the 1930s and 1970s respectively. Several amendments were made to these two constitutional documents of British Hong Kong after they were promulgated in 1843.
Sir Henry Pottinger and present-day Pottinger Street, a street in Hong Kong named after him. During the First Opium War, Pottinger’s forces defeated the Qing forces between 1841 and 1842. He then signed the Treaty of Nanking on behalf of Britain in 1842 and was appointed as the first Hong Kong Governor the next year. He founded the British rule in Hong Kong.
The Executive Council and the Legislative Council were established in August 1843. Their first sessions were held in January 1844. The photo shows some members of the Executive Council in Hong Kong in 1860, including the 5th Hong Kong Governor Sir Hercules Robinson (left third).
In 1880, Ng Choy (伍才, also known as Wu Ting-fang﹝伍廷芳﹞) was appointed as the first Chinese unofficial member of the Legislative Council.
The members of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council during the early 20th century. Ho Kai (何啓, 14) and Boshan Wei-yuk (韋玉, 15) were Chinese unofficial members of the Legislative Council.
In 1926, Chow Shou-son (周壽臣) was appointed as the first Chinese unofficial member of the Executive Council.
The Court of Final Appeal Building and the Statue of Justice on top of the building. It stands as a testimony to the century-long history of the legislature and the judiciary in Hong Kong.
The Victoria Prison was built soon after Britain occupied Hong Kong in 1841. It was the first prison in Hong Kong. The photo shows some prisoners exercising in the prison yard in 1895.
Hong Kong police officers in early days and the present-day Central Police Station Compound completed in 1864. The Police Force enhanced the British rule in Hong Kong.
Unless otherwise specified, the images in this material are provided by Professor Lau Chi-pang and Professor Liu Shuyong. Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders and obtain permission to reproduce this material. Please do get in touch with any enquiries or any information relating to this image or the rights holder.