Lin Tse-Hou, military and scholar, wrote to Queen Victoria firmly asking her to stop opium trafficking that takes considerable proportions. In response, "the very pure and very Christian Queen Victoria" advised that England cannot abandon an important source of income.
The situation between the two powers is deteriorating rapidly: February 26, 1839 Lin Tse-Hou ordered to hang a Chinese trafficker before Cantonese representations of the British traders. Despite the hostility of a corrupted part of the Chinese elite, Lin stands firm and organizes the fight in the city and the province of Canton. He does stop 1700 Chinese drug traffickers and confiscated 70 000 opium pipes. He published an order where merchants engaged to do not carry opium and let inspect their boats. This additional paperwork before the arrival in July 1839, ’39 rules’ which key measures particularly irritate the Governor Elliot, representative of the English Crown in China: death penalty to offenders, 18 months granted to victims for detoxification and penalties applied to foreigners which violates the principle of extra-territoriality so dear to the British. After these multiple pressures, Elliot has no other choice to allow the delivery of 20 290 boxes of opium to the Chinese authorities. They are open and then with the help of the population, opium is thrown into the sea June 7, 1839. The prejudice of two million pounds sterling will be lively discussions at the Parliament in London the following year.
In this context of fight against smuggling, the English must leave not only Canton, but also Macau.
Many of them took refuge in boats off the coast. But they receive naval reinforcements and the traffic can resume quickly in some islands under the protection of artillery of the British frigate Volage and Hyacinth.
England prepares for a war known to conduct primarily to protect the interests of the drug dealers.
The destruction of opium caisses on June 7, 1839 provides the pretext expected to trigger hostilities.
The Treaty of Nanking, signed in August 1842 at the end of the first opium war, had already granted the British considerable commercial privileges and the island of Hong Kong.
In 1860, the Beijing Convention follows a long list of treaties qualified by the Chinese as "unequal treaties." Eleven ports, Canton, Shanghai, Hankou and Tianjin, are open to trade. Customs duties are limited to a maximum of 5%. Westerners have the right to move within the country and acquire land properties without paying more than 2.5% of taxes. Britain acquired Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and gets in 1898 a 99 year lease on the New Territories (952 km2 constituting 80% of the territory of Hong Kong) and 235 islands off the coast of Hong Kong.
Peasant revolts eventually undermine the empire which became a Republic February 12, 1912, with the abdication of the last emperor of China, Puyi, then aged six.
With the exception perhaps of the Incas and the Indians of America faced with alcohol, the opium wars constitute a first ‘model’ of the action of a psychotropic substance that is imposed by one nation to another. In the early 1900s, the ravages of opium are considerable since nearly 25 million people worldwide on 1 billion are regular consumers, to compare with the situation in 2000 where it is 25 million people among 7 billion who are dependent on drugs.
In China, it caused looting, famine, repressions, which last a century, from 1840 to 1949. Anglo-Saxon researchers estimate the number of victims in a range between 120 and 150 million. The arrival of Mao in power, with its appalling record of 80 million deaths, did not end to the suffering of the Chinese.
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