“The British seizure of Hong Kong was an aspect of one of the most

ugly crimes of the British Empire:

the takeover and destruction of

India, and the use of India to

flood China with opium.”

–Robert Trout

In March 1857, Britain and France declared war on the Qing Dynasty of China in what came to be known as the Second Opium War. The name is in reference to one of Britain’s strategic objectives, which was to legalize opium trade, alongside other motives such as expanding trade, opening China to British merchants, and exempting foreign imports from internal transit duties. The First Opium War, which consisted of military engagements between Britain and China over trade conflicts, failed in meeting British interests and eventually led to the Second war, where the French Empire intervened following the execution of a French missionary in the Quangxi province of China which prohibited foreigners.

The war resulted in a Franco-British victory in 1860, and the legalization of opium trade. The conflict is viewed as a significant emblem of the Western imperial aggression of the nineteenth century, and is read in Chinese history as the beginning of a “Century of Humiliation”.