The Hong Kong Effect in Macau

Hong Kong Challenged Macau's Trade Supremacy

As Britain made great strides in Hong Kong, Portugal reasserted and broadened its influence in Macau while many Macanese left for the new British colony.

Years:  1842 — 1892

After China ceded Hong Kong to the British in 1842, Macau’s position as a major regional trading center declined further because larger ships were drawn to the deep water port of Victoria Harbor. In an attempt to reverse the decline, Portugal declared Macau a free port, expelled Chinese officials and soldiers, and thereafter levied taxes on Chinese residents. In 1848, a revolt of the boatmen was put down.

Portugal continued to pay rent to China until 1849, when the Portuguese abolished the Chinese customs house and declared Macau’s “independence”. That year also saw Chinese retaliation and finally the assassination of Gov. Ferreira do Amaral during the so-called Baishaling Incident. However, Portugal was able to gain control of the islands of Wanzai, Taipa and Coloane. In 1883, Macau and East Timor were again combined as an overseas province of Portugal under control of Goa. The "Protocol Respecting the Relations Between the Two Countries", signed in 1887, confirmed “perpetual occupation and government” of Macau by Portugal. Taipa and Coloane were also ceded to Portugal, but the border with the mainland was not delineated. In 1871, the Hospital Kiang Wu was founded as a traditional Chinese medical hospital. It was in 1892 that doctor Sun Yat-sen brought Western medicine services to the hospital.

As a result of the setting up of the colony of Hong Kong, many Macanese were offered positions in the new administration to continue working in the British companies and the surging needs for logistics and services encouraged the reallocation of printing companies and able bodies. This need for skilled labor and interpreters also came up in other treaty ports that were opened in China during the aftermath of the Second Opium War. It was an opportunity to look for wider horizons which many Macanese families opted for despite the loss of human resources in their native Macau.

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