Hong Kong: Opium and Free Trade

The British acquired opium through the conquest of India around 1757. The British created a largeimport using opium as trade for Chinese tea .  While the British used opium for medical purposes the Chinese used it as a narcotic which in turn caused conflict between the two countries. The Chinese confiscated and destroyed a large import of opium in hopes to stop trade with the British, but Queen Victoria saw that as a threat and sent her Royal Navy to Hong Kong.  Queen Victoria’s retaliation was the start of the Opium Wars and the British control of the port at Hong Kong. They established a free port that attracted a variety of customers and goods.

Verne described city of Hong Kong at the time his journey prevailed throughthe European perspective. The book describes the mass of ships from numerous nations all looking for free trade which was what occurred after the British opened the port. He described Hong Kong as an “import city and excellent port”, which could have mixed reviews depending on what lens you are looking from. The Chinese were extremely upset that opium was still being traded into their country because they were seeing the addictive and destructive side of the drug. On the other hand the British were experiencing commercial privileges which had great effects on their economy back home. Although Verne acknowledges that the drug is having a terrible effect on the community he does not idolize the poverty and sociopolitical destruction it was establishing. He only entered the taverns of the elite men with decorated rooms and lavish furniture. He discussed the drinks and fun being had in the taverns and described how the smokers would slip under the table and be helped to a near by bed.  He fails to recognize that the British had ruled opium illegal in their country and just sort of laughs at the under developed society it was causing. The elites and European foreigners lived in great wealth compared to the slums not far from the port. He failed to acknowledge the segregation among the people living in Hong Kong and instead described the opium users as dumb and unworthy.