十九世纪的英国对中国茶有着无法满足的胃口，但清朝及其臣民并不想购买英国人生产的任何东西，并要求英国人用银或金来代替其茶的习惯。维多利亚女王政府不想再用掉该国的黄金或白银储备来购买茶叶，交易期间产生的茶叶进口税占英国经济的主要比例。维多利亚州政府决定将英国殖民地印度次大陆的鸦片强行出口到中国。在那里，鸦片将被换成茶。当他们发现禁止鸦片进口完全没有用 – 因为英国商人只是将毒品走私到中国 – 清政府采取了更直接的行动。 1839年，中国官员销毁了20,000包鸦片。此举激起英国宣战，以保护其非法毒品走私活动。不出所料，中国政府反对外国势力向其国家大规模进口麻醉品。当时，大多数英国人并未将鸦片视为特别危险;对他们来说，这是一种药。然而，中国正在经历鸦片危机，其军队受到瘾的直接影响。英格兰的政治家如威廉·埃尔特·格拉德斯通（William Ewart Gladstone）确实认识到了危险并且极力反对;但与此同时，有些人发了财，比如富兰克林·德拉诺·罗斯福的祖父美国人沃伦·德拉诺。第一次鸦片战争持续了1839年至1842年。1841年1月25日，英国入侵中国大陆并占领了香港岛，并将其作为军事集结点。中国输掉了战争，不得不在“南京条约”中将香港割让给英国。结果，香港成为大英帝国的皇冠殖民地。然而，“南京条约”没有解决鸦片贸易争端，而且冲突再次升级为第二次鸦片战争。该冲突的解决是北京的第一个公约，于1860年10月18日批准，当时英国占领了九龙半岛南部和昂船洲（昂船洲）。英国人越来越担心19世纪下半叶英国香港自由港的安全问题。这是一个孤立的岛屿，周围还有中国控制的地区。 1898年6月9日，英国与中国签署了一项协议，将中国租借香港，九龙和“新界” – 界限街以北的九龙半岛其余部分，更多地区以外的九龙进入深春河，以及200个离岛。香港的英国总督要求完全拥有所有权，但中国人在第一次中日战争的削弱下，通过谈判达成更合理的转让，最终结束了战争。这项具有法律约束力的租约将持续99年。到1949年，以毛泽东为首的人民解放军接管了中国，西方现在担心共产党人会抓住一个突然无价的间谍职位，特别是在朝鲜战争期间。虽然四人帮在1967年考虑派兵到香港，但他们最终没有起诉香港回归。1984年12月19日，英国首相玛格丽特·撒切尔和中国总理赵紫阳签署了中英联合会宣布，其中英国同意在租约期满时不仅返回新界，而且还返回九龙和英国香港。根据声明的条款，香港将成为中华人民共和国（中华人民共和国）的特别行政区（特区），并有望在外交和国防事务之外享有高度自治权。在租约结束后的50年内，香港仍将是一个拥有独立关税区的自由港，并维持自由兑换市场。香港公民可以继续在大陆实行资本主义和政治自由。在20世纪上半叶，英国多次考虑将租约退回中国，因为这个岛屿对英格兰来说不再是非常重要的。但是在1941年日本占领了香港。美国总统富兰克林罗斯福试图向英国首相温斯顿丘吉尔施压，要求他们将这个岛屿归还中国作为他们在战争中获得支持的让步，但丘吉尔拒绝了。在第二次世界大战结束时，英国仍然控制着香港，尽管美国人继续向他们施压，要求将其归还中国。
Nineteenth-century Britain had an insatiable appetite for Chinese tea, but the Qing Dynasty and its subjects did not want to buy anything that the British produced and demanded that the British instead pay for its tea habit with silver or gold. The government of Queen Victoria did not want to use up any more of the country’s reserves of gold or silver to buy tea, and the tea importation tax generated during the transactions was a major percentage of the British economy. Victoria’s government decided to forcibly export opium from the British-colonized Indian subcontinent to China. There, opium would then be exchanged for tea. When they discovered that banning opium imports outright did not work—because British merchants simply smuggled the drug into China—the Qing government took more direct action. In 1839, Chinese officials destroyed 20,000 bales of opium. This move provoked Britain to declare war in order to protect its illegal drug-smuggling operations. China’s government, not too surprisingly, objected to the large-scale importation of narcotics into their country by a foreign power. At the time, most of Britain didn’t view opium as a particular danger; to them, it was a medicine. China, however, was experiencing an opium crisis, with its military forces suffering direct impacts from their addictions. There were politicians in England such as William Ewart Gladstone who did recognize the danger and objected strenuously; but at the same time, there were men who made their fortunes, such as the American Warren Delano, the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The First Opium War lasted from 1839 to 1842. Britain invaded the Chinese mainland and occupied the island of Hong Kong on Jan. 25, 1841, using it as a military staging point. China lost the war and had to cede Hong Kong to Britain in the Treaty of Nanking. As a result, Hong Kong became a crown colony of the British Empire. The Treaty of Nanking did not, however, resolve the opium trade dispute, and the conflict escalated again, into the Second Opium War. The settlement of that conflict was the first Convention of Peking, ratified on Oct. 18, 1860, when Britain acquired the southern part of the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island (Ngong Shuen Chau). The British grew increasingly worried about the security of their free port at British Hong Kong during the second half of the 19th century. It was an isolated island, surrounded by areas still under Chinese control. On June 9, 1898, the British signed a deal with the Chinese to lease Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the “New Territories”—the remainder of Kowloon Peninsula north of Boundary Street, more territory beyond Kowloon into the Sham Chun River, and over 200 outlying islands. Hong Kong’s British governors pressed for outright ownership, but the Chinese, while weakened by the first Sino-Japanese War, negotiated a more reasonable cession to finally end the war. That legally binding lease was to last 99 years. By 1949, the People’s Liberation Army led by Mao Zedong had taken over China, and the West was now afraid that Communists would get their hands on a suddenly invaluable post for espionage, especially during the Korean War. While the Gang of Four did consider sending troops to Hong Kong in 1967, they ultimately did not sue for the return of Hong Kong.On Dec. 19, 1984, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which Britain agreed to return not only the New Territories but also Kowloon and British Hong Kong itself when the lease term expired. Under the declaration’s terms, Hong Kong would become a special administrative region (SAR) under the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and it was expected to enjoy a high degree of autonomy outside of foreign and defense affairs. For a period of 50 years after the end of the lease, Hong Kong would remain a free port with a separate customs territory and sustain markets for free exchange. Hong Kong citizens could continue to practice capitalism and political freedoms forbidden on the mainland. Several times in the first half of the 20th century, Britain considered relinquishing the lease back to China because the island simply wasn’t terribly important to England anymore. But in 1941 Japan seized Hong Kong. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pressure British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to return the island to China as a concession for their support in the war, but Churchill refused. At the end of World War II, the British still controlled Hong Kong, although the Americans continued to pressure them to return it to China.