"For 150 years, Hong Kong was a British colony. Especially during the Cold War, it felt like that would be the case forever. But Hong Kong was first occupied during the gunboat imperialism of the 19th century Opium Wars, so even fervently anti-Communist and Westernized Chinese always felt great ambivalence towards the British: gratitude and admiration terribly tempered by sufferance of arrogance and injustice.
As it turned out, Britain’s last great colony was also its most successful. The racist exploitation of previous generations gradually transformed into Hong Kong becoming a sanctuary for refugees and an entrepot for free trade and manufacturing. It was as if the decline and fall of the once mighty British Empire somehow mellowed the colonizers and colonized both. The British had never run Hong Kong as a democracy; they simply appointed governors. But at the eleventh hour before the handover to China in 1997, perhaps out of guilt or repentance, they negotiated a deal for the protection of civil liberties, open markets, and gradual democratization in Hong Kong for 50 years. China’s leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, not wanting to kill a gold-egg-laying goose, agreed."