In 1898 Great Britain added to its colony at Hong Kong a 368-square-mile expanse of mountainous countryside and islands, leased from China for a term of 99 years, which became known as the New Territories. The colonial official, James Stewart Lockhart, after an inspection of the newly acquired extension, called it "the great difference". He was describing the gulf between the people of the New Territories and their counterparts in the existing, largely urban, British colony. In this book, James Hayes argues that "the great difference" led the colonial government to administer the New Territories and its people differently from the old urban area from the outset, with repercussions that continue to affect present-day Hong Kong. First published in 2006, and now appearing in this paperback edition with a new preface, The Great Difference covers the whole period of the lease and embodies the fruits of its author's studies of the territory and its indigenous population over several decades. While not a formal history of the New Territories, it is intended to provide an intimate and knowledgeable overview of this fascinating area, and to assist other researchers, paving the way for the general history that has yet to be written.
James Hayes is a scholar of the Hong Kong region and its people. In his thirty-two years of government service he served in the New Territories almost half the time, and was Regional Secretary New Territories, heading the District Administration there in 1985–87. His publications include Friends and Teachers: Hong Kong and Its People 1953–87 (Hong Kong University Press, 1996) and The Hong Kong Region: Institutions and Leadership in Town and Countryside (1977, reprinted by Hong Kong University Press, 2012).