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A brief history of Hong Kong Part 3 – The City As We Know It

Sarah Richard
Nikhil Gidwani

Ok, it might not be because of that whole handover thing to the PRC, but some pretty crazy s**t happened to Hong Kong from 1997 onwards. The city was tested like never before thanks to some infamous murders, mass riots and the worst of them all, SARS. But through it all, our little town grew bigger and more bad-ass than ever. In the final part of our series, we look at Hong Kong Post-handover, sorting through the big events that the city (for better or worse) experienced as we know it.

1997: Attack of the birds:

1.3 million chickens are gassed to death to prevent the spread of Avian influenza. Sales of chicken feet slump.


(“Cockle-doodle doo, I’ve got some flu for you” Dead chickens being discarded)

6 July 1998: HK’s new airport

at Chek Lap Kok officially opens, and suffers embarrassing glitches in its first few weeks of operation. The old airport at Kai Tak is briefly reopened for cargo flights to support operations at CLK.

1999: Infamous Hello Kitty murder

where a nightclub hostess is kidnapped, held prisoner and tortured over an unpaid debt. She eventually dies and is dismembered. Her skull is stuffed into a Hello Kitty doll and two movies are created about the incident called “Human Pork Chop,” and “There’s a Secret in my Soup.” Part 5 of Human Pork Chop can be found here (warning extremely graphic and horrendous acting):

Hello kitty

(Fact: Hello Kitty is actually a little girl, not a kitten)

2003 – Hong Kong’s Annus Horribilis: SARS

epidemic strikes. 299 people die. HK devotes more attention to hygiene and citizens start wearing masks when they’re not well. Citizens do not spit on the streets as much as before, however are still prone to outbreaks of “insanity,” such as cutting toenails in public and shaving heads on the bus etc. Don’t believe us? Seriously…

1 April 2003: Canto-pop star Leslie Cheung

commits suicide by jumping off the Mandarin Oriental. People start making an annual pilgrimage to the site to honour one of the SAR’s biggest stars in history.

1 July 2003: Half a million protestors

take to the street in opposition to the proposed Article 23 legislation, fearing an erosion of citizens’ rights. Don’t worry, it was a public holiday, so office workers weren’t inconvenienced. Hongkongers… always the utmost polite and considerate.

2003: The Infamous “Milkshake Murder”

Nancy Ann Kissel eventually sentenced to life in prison for drugging and killing her husband and wrapping his body in a carpet, after an affair with an electrical repairman in the US during her escape from the SAR during SARS. Nancy‘s currently serving a life sentence in maximum-security Tai Lam Woman’s Institute. Wave to her window the next time you find yourself driving down Tuen Mun Highway! Please see the link to a book about the incident by Joe McGinnis called “Never Enough:” A movie is also released called “The Two Mr Kissels,” however their ratings appear poor (warning spoiler alert):

30 December 2003: Canto-pop diva Anita Mui

succumbs to cervical cancer. Proves herself to be the bad-ass she is by finishing her tour while undergoing chemo!

December 2004: HK Police

get new uniforms, designed by G2000!


(“Is that a skirt you’re wearing Officer?” Uniform from the 1950s and 1960s, photo courtesy of

2 March 2005: Chief Executive Tung Chee Wah resigns

resigns and “Bow Tie” Donald Tsang takes his place. Free bow ties are distributed to all HK citizens. Nobody wears them, but many of them can now be found in Tseung Kwan O landfill.

December 2005: WTO Ministerial Conference in HK

100 Korean farmers jump into Victoria Harbour in protest. HK Marine Police pull them out.


(Entrants for the Cross-Harbour Swimming Race or Korean farmers getting some exercise?) (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

26 December 2006: Internet outage

which lasts for a few days in HK due to an earthquake in Taiwan which ruptures undersea cables. People aren’t sure what to do as they wonder about life before the internet.

2008: Beijing Olympics

Equestrian events held in HK due to HK’s excellent facilities and history of successful horse-racing events (think Wednesday nights), including temperatures cooled to 20 degrees for the horses’ transport and their stables. Humans watching the equestrian events receive no such luxuries. Not so “Happy” Valley now, is it?

May 2013: Giant Rubber Duck

graces the Fragrant Harbour with its presence. Large numbers of people take photos and put them on social media, but the duck largely achieves nothing, besides showing Hongkongers’ gullible nature for snapping a pic of anything that looks “cute”.

not so cute

(Errrr not so cute, photo courtesy of CNN)

2014: Occupy Central

Rowdy (and rightly pissed off) students take to the streets demanding political change. Ultimately achieve none of their demands, piss off lots of locals by blocking major traffic routes, and make Hongkongers weary of anyone carrying a Yellow Umbrella forever.

January 2016: Extremely cold weather affects HK

Citizens who’ve never seen frost outside of their home freezers climb Tai Mo Shan and become stranded in the process. Fire Department rescues them. But hey, at least their Instagram feeds were epic! (But were they really?)

Extremely cold weather affects HK

(Photo courtesy of SCMP)

Feb 2016: Mong Kok riots

Hong Kong’s worst riots since the 1960s. An alleged dispute over unlicensed food hawkers turns ugly and a riot begins, with protesters ripping up bricks from the pavement to throw at police, who retaliate using batons and pepper spray and one officer fires warning shots into the air. The incident spawns the #fishballrevolution hashtag. Fishball sales increase.

And that’s a wrap! A city’s history is never really complete. But this story sure is! Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve now got a bit more insight to what makes Heung Gong so fragrant (Hint: lots and lots of perfume and deodorant…)

Sarah Richard

Nikhil Gidwani was raised locally and is a proud Hong Konger. After a few years of living and working overseas, he has recently returned to the Asia’s World City. When he’s not working, Nikhil spends much of his time hiking and visiting different parts of Hong Kong in order to find new material for his Instagram page. .