The last fifty years of legal opium in Hong Kong, 1893-1943

by Salvi, Tiziana

Abstract (Summary)
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of the thesis entitled The last fifty years of legal opium in Hong Kong, 1893-1943 Submitted by Tiziana Salvi For the degree of Master of Philosophy At the University of Hong Kong August 2004 This dissertation tells the story of one particular aspect of the history of Hong Kong that the majority of scholars have generally neglected: opium in the first half of the twentieth century. The fifty years from 1893 to 1943 beheld remarkable transformations in the attitude of the government concerning opium, as the colony moved from total free trade to utter prohibition along a gradual path. This paper analyses the rationale behind the colonial governmentspolicies, and it explains the relationship between wealth and opium, and the connection between the government, the merchant elite, and the addicts. Born as a free port, where merchants tenaciously safeguarded the free trade system, for the government of Hong Kong there was only one answer to the problem of revenue: opium. And the drug indeed constituted one of the main pillars on which Hong Kong was built. The thesis consists of an introduction, four chapters, a conclusion, a glossary, a group of appendixes, and a bibliography. Chapter one is a broad historical presentation of the opium trade in Asia with particular reference to the role of Hong Kong in the organization of this business, and a special reference to the opium situation in the colony. Chapter two presents those transformations that at the beginning of the twentieth century set off the route that progressively led to prohibition. It describes the stands of the pro- and anti-opium campaign. It introduces the crucial shift in the opium trade that reversed its route. Instead of opium reaching China from Hong Kong, as it happened during the nineteenth century, it was China that started to flood Hong Kong with opium. This sparkled the protectionist behaviour of Britain towards all drugs except those coming from the monopoly. Chapter three brings in the continuous struggle of Hong Kong with the Chinese opium farmer over the profits of the opium farm, and with the home government over the moral stand of the opium revenue; money was always the driving force behind the tenacious resistance of the colony. It also describes the period when the government ran the opium monopoly, and how it managed the transition from the farm to the monopoly. This was indeed a short but intense period of time (1912-14) after which the government was finally free to organize the business at its own will. Chapter four opens the door on the connections and the interests involved in the opium trade, in the war on drugs, and deals with the aspects of the farming system, the problem of smuggling and corruption, and the shift in the pattern of drug consumption from opium to heroin. Actually, the situation in the system did not change much; the government took over the farm and its employees, and continued to run the business as the farmer did. But when heroin appeared on the scene, it helped speed up the process of change towards prohibition. Word count: 480
Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Hong Kong

School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:opium trade government policy china hong kong history


Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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